"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.
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.)