Lieutenant Colonel Christine Mau has become the first woman to fly the fifth generation stealth fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. Following 14...
Lieutenant Colonel Christine Mau has become the first woman to fly the fifth generation stealth fighter, the F-35 Lightning II.
Following 14 full virtual training missions in a simulator, the Deputy Commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group took to the skies above Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Lt. Col. Mau, the 88th pilot to be trained to fly the single-seat fighter, said:
"It wasn't until I was taxiing to the runway that it really struck me that I was on my own in the jet."
"It felt great to get airborne. The jet flies like a dream, and seeing the systems interact is impressive."
Mau, a former F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, is no stranger to combat missions, having flown sorties in Afghanistan in 2011.
While the first woman in the F-35 program, the pilot says gender has no bearing on her performance, joking that the only difference between her and her fellow F-35 pilots is the size of her G-suit and facemask - both extra small.
"Flying is a great equaliser. The plane doesn't know or care about your gender as a pilot, nor do the ground troops who need your support. You just have to perform. That's all anyone cares about when you're up there - that you can do your job, and you do it exceptionally well."
The UK has taken delivery of its first four Lightning II aircraft, which are due to be flying from the decks of the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers from 2018.
The Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy plan to eventually operate 138 F-35B short take-off/vertical landing variants of the aircraft.