Captain S., the only female pilot in Israel to fly one of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I stealth fighter jets, has been appointed as deputy commander of the service’s 116th “Southern Lions” F-35 squadron, Israel’s second Adir squadron, the IDF said in a statement on Twitter.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post, the 26-year-old Capt. S., whose name and face have been classified, graduated from the pilot’s course in 2016, and flew F-16s during her time with the 107th “Knights of the Orange Tail” squadron.
While there are several female F-35 pilots in the US Air Force (USAF), it is believed that Capt. S is only the second woman to fly the advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter jet in combat (the first having been USAF F-35A Lightning II pilot Capt. Emily “Banzai” Thompson), and is certainly the first woman in Israel to do so.
While the US was the first to fly the fighter jet Israel was the first to use the jet in combat at all. This took place in 2018, just months after it declared operational capability and continues to use the jet for a range of missions.
Israel became the first country to select the F-35 through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales process when a Letter of Agreement was signed in October 2010. On June 22, 2016, the IAF received the first F-35I Adir for Israel at a ceremony at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 factory. The Israeli Air Force declared its F-35 fleet operationally capable in December 2017, marking the completion of an intensive integration and training effort conducted at Nevatim AFB, Israel.
By November, the IAF will field 27 F-35I Adirs out of a total of 50 planes set to land in the coming years, to make two full squadrons by 2024. A third F-35I Adir squadron will open next year as part of changes to make the force more efficient and better able to contend with regional threats, the service revealed last August.
Photo credit: Israel Defense Forces
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