November 25, 2007:
The South Korean Air Force
gained its first female fighter pilot when Captain Ha Jung-mi qualified to
operate the F-16. She had previously flown A-37 attack aircraft, and joined the
air force five years ago.
Earlier this year, the Spanish Air Force accepted
for service its first female F-18 pilot,Lieutenant Rosa Maria Garcia-Malea Lopez. Before the 1990s, the majority
of female combat pilots were those who flew for the Russian air force during
World War II. Russia had thousands of women flying warplanes back then, and
several of them became aces. Most of the women flew combat support aircraft,
partly because many of the warplanes back then did not have power-assisted
controls, and required a lot of physical strength, especially in combat. But
where this was not a factor, many of the Russian female pilots demonstrated a
talent for winning air-to-air battles.
Russia stopped using female pilots when the war was
over. The same thing had happened during World War I, when the few female
pilots were dismissed once peace came. This did not change until the 1970s, and
since then many nations, even Moslem ones, have recruited female military
pilots. Israel accepted its first female fighter pilot in 2001, after allowing
women to be military flight instructors for years.
After World War II, American researchers did a lot
of work to determine what personal characteristics were responsible for some
pilots being exceptionally effective ("aces"), while most were not. In the
course of this research, it was discovered, as some researchers suspected (no
doubt in light of the Russian experience) that many women were potential aces.
In due time, it was discovered that, if the same training standards were
applied to male and female pilot trainees, the superior female pilots would
emerge. There were some problems in the United States initially, where
political pressure to get more women into fighter cockpits led to some
unqualified women pilots getting killed or injured when their skills were not
up to the task. Flying military aircraft is unforgiving, and generally intolerant
of incompetence. All the more reason to identify your potential aces, male or
female, and get them into your warplanes.