National

Japan sees first woman qualify as fighter jet pilot

Kyodo

1st Lt. Misa Matsushima, 26, has become Japan’s first woman to qualify as a fighter jet pilot in the nation’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF).

“My longtime dream has come true. I want to become a fully-fledged pilot, no different from men, as soon as possible,” said Matsushima after a ceremony Thursday at an ASDF base in Miyazaki Prefecture, marking the completion of a training course to become an F-15 fighter pilot.

According to the ASDF, Matsushima, who completed the course alongside five men, is expected to start work piloting F-15s in six to 12 months, after undergoing further training to qualify for scrambling the jet to intercept aircraft intruding into Japan’s airspace.

“I hope she will continue to blaze that difficult path and become a role model for women who aspire to become fighter pilots,” said Osamu Uemori, who taught her on the training course.

A Yokohama native, Matsushima joined the ASDF after graduating from the National Defense Academy in March 2014. After obtaining her pilot’s license in October 2016, she continued to work toward becoming a fighter pilot.

Matsushima will be assigned to the 5th Air Wing at the Nyutabaru Air Base in the prefecture on Friday and will continue her training there.

With the Defense Ministry aiming to double the number of female Self-Defense Force members, it has been easing restrictions to allow women to effectively work in all fields. The ASDF abolished gender restrictions on personnel becoming fighter and reconnaissance aircraft pilots in November 2015.