Deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Capt. Emily Thompson, call sign “Banzai,” flew a fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter into combat, becoming the first female pilot to do so. She is on her first deployment, and the flight marked her first combat sortie.
“Being the first female, it’s a pretty big honor,” Thompson said in an Air Force statement.
“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 said. “So, just to be the person who gets that honor, that first, it just meant a lot.”
Thompson, who had planned to be an engineer before she realized that she could fly instead of just fix airplanes, started her career in the Air Force flying F-16 Fighting Falcons but then later transferred to the F-35A, the variant of the Lockheed Martin stealth fighter built for the Air Force.