22:36 GMT27 September 2020
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    The maintenance team who helped Emily Thompson launch her F-35 fighter jet was an all-female crew, in what prompted her to suggest "the number of women flying the F-35 is just going to continue to grow".

    US Air Force (USAF) Captain Emily Thompson has become the first female fighter pilot to fly the American stealth fighter jet F-35A, according to a press release by the USAF Central Command.

    The press released said earlier this week that Thompson recently flew the fifth-generation jet into battle, after the F-35A lifted off from the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates en route to an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

    F-35 jet sits on the tarmac (File)
    © AP Photo / Rick Bowmer
    F-35 jet sits on the tarmac (File)

    In an interview published on the USAF website, she said that “this is my first deployment, so for me it was a pretty big deal, the first combat sortie for me” and that “being the first female” is certainly “a pretty big honour”.

    “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. So just to be the person who gets that honour, that first, it just meant a lot”, Thompson, who is knowns as "Banzai" among her fellow USAF pilots, pointed out.

    She remained upbeat about a “bright future” of similar flights, saying that “there is a number of us already in the F-35 and I think the number is just going to continue to grow”.

    “It’s a very supportive community, it’s very open, I think the opportunity for women to really excel in the F-35 is definitely there”, she underlined.

    Notably, Thompson had an all-female maintenance crew on the day of her first combat sortie, including Airman First Class Ashlin Randolph.

    A weapons load crew member, Randolph admitted that she always gets “really nervous, so I had medics, my lieutenants, and intelligence [personnel] and they were all females”, who were “all there to support me”.

    Described as the most expensive warplane in history, the F-35, however, reportedly continues to face an array of technical troubles that could put the lives of its pilots at risk.


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    fighter jet, flight, pilot, F-35, US Air Force, United States
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