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A Female Air Force Pilot Makes History

Capt. Emily Thompson flew an F-35 into combat
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2020 10:30 AM CDT
Updated Jun 13, 2020 11:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – "It's a pretty big honor." So said Capt. Emily Thompson after becoming the first woman to fly a stealth fighter jet into combat, Fox News reports. The Air Force says Thompson, call sign "Banzai," flew the F-35A Lightning II in a combat sortie and was launched by an all-female crew. "This is my first deployment … so for me it was a pretty big deal, the first combat sortie for me. … Of course being the first female, it's a pretty big honor," she says in a press release. "So just to be the person who gets that honor, that first, it just meant a lot." Where or when is unknown, but the Air Force Times notes F-35s from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force base were deployed in the United Arab Emirates on May 20.

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While Thompson broke ground, she's aware of the history behind her: "There's a lot of females who have come before me and there's a lot of females already flying combat sorties in other platforms," she says. Indeed, Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau became the first female F-35 pilot in 2015, and Fox News reported last August on Marine Capt. Anneliese Satz becoming the first Marine Corps female to fly an F-35. KHOU goes all the way back to Brenda Robinson, the first black female pilot in the US Navy in 1980. "I think it's a bright future," says Thompson. "There is a number of [women] already in the F-35 and I think the number is just going to continue to grow. It's a very supportive community, very open." (Read more US Air Force stories.)

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