Misa Matsushima Becomes Japan’s First Female Fighter Pilot

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Twenty-six-year-old First Lieutenant Misa Matsushima has been appointed as the first ever female fighter pilot in Japan in a ceremony on Friday after she completed her training earlier in the week. This is just the latest in Japan’s push for more gender equality in the workplace across the country.

Matsushima joined the Japan Air Self Defense Force in 2014 after she graduated from National Defense Academy. She is one of just 13,707 servicewomen in the country. Women make up just 6.1 percent of Japanese troops.

According to CNN, Matsushima made this her goal when she was just a child.

“Ever since I saw the movie Top Gun when I was in primary school, I have always admired fighter jet pilots. As the first female (fighter) pilot, I will open the way. I would like work hard to meet people’s expectations and show my gratitude to people who have been supporting me. I want to become a full-fledged pilot, no different from men, as soon as possible. I hope to be the one to inspire more people to become a pilot.”

Matsushima first went through training for her pilot’s license, which she was granted in 2015. After that, she immediately enrolled in fighter pilot training. Following her appointment, the Yokohama native will be stationed at the Nyutabaru Air Base.

The F-15J fighter jets that Matsushima will be flying are intended for air-to-air combat and can carry up to eight radar and infrared missiles. They also have an incredible top speed of 1,918 mph.

The JASDF only became inclusive of women in 1993, but even so, not all positions were immediately open to women. It was only in 2015 that the ban on female fighter pilots was lifted, and it has taken three years for the first to be appointed. This ban was lifted due to a push by the government to increase the number of employed women, owing to the “aging population and shrinking workforce.”

Up until recently, many Japanese women were still expected to be housewives, keeping the home clean and raising the children. It was in 2013 that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a speech in which he promised to empower women who wanted careers of their own.

As such, the military in Japan announced their intention to reach an increase to nine percent of women in the armed forces by 2030. By contrast, the number of women currently serving in the United States military is 16 percent.

With the opening of previously restricted roles in the Japanese military, more and more women are signing up to serve, and even taking high ranking positions. Back in March, the navy appointed the first female commander of a warship squadron.