A growing number of women in the Self-Defense Forces are entering formerly male-dominated fields, with one recently becoming the country's first-ever female fighter pilot.

"I want to become a full-fledged pilot, no different from men," 1st Lt. Misa Matsushima of the Air Self-Defense Force told reporters in late August after a ceremony at a base in Miyazaki Prefecture to mark the completion of a training course to become an F-15 fighter pilot.

The 27-year-old Matsushima, who stands just 159 centimeters tall, had dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot ever since watching the hit movie "Top Gun" starring Tom Cruise, which portrays young naval aviators, when she was in elementary school.