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Israel’s only female F-35 pilot named deputy commander of squadron

The officer, whose name is classified, completed training on the stealth fighter jet in 2016 and has flown the plane ever since

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Cpt. 'Shin,' the Israeli Air Force's only female F-35 pilot -- who can only be identified by her rank and first Hebrew initial -- sits in one of the fifth generation fighter jets in a undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)
Cpt. 'Shin,' the Israeli Air Force's only female F-35 pilot -- who can only be identified by her rank and first Hebrew initial -- sits in one of the fifth generation fighter jets in a undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force’s only female F-35 fighter pilot was named the new deputy commander of the 116th Squadron, which flies the fifth generation stealth aircraft, the military said Thursday.

The pilot, 26, can only be identified by her rank and first Hebrew initial: Cpt. “Shin.”

She initially served in the 116th Squadron after completing her training in December 2016. She then moved to the air force’s 107th Squadron, which became operational last August, the Israel Defense Forces said.

“Today, Cpt. ‘Shin’ is the only woman in Israel who flies the F-35 Adir,” the military said, using the IDF’s name for the aircraft.

Cpt. ‘Shin,’ the Israeli Air Force’s only female F-35 pilot — who can only be identified by her rank and first Hebrew initial — stands in her flight suit. (Israel Defense Forces)

Though both men and women are able to serve in the air force — following a 1994 petition to the Supreme Court — in practice, the majority of pilots are still male.

In August, the military announced it was considering greater gender integration in combat units after a group of women filed a petition on the matter to the High Court of Justice.

The IDF said the committee would be led by Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, commander of IDF Ground Forces, while Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano — the outgoing head of the Gaza Division and a former commander of the Paratroopers Brigade — would serve as Strick’s deputy.

“Men and women with senior positions in the IDF who have relevant, operational, and professional expertise in a variety of fields will take part in the committee,” the IDF said.

The military said the team would investigate a number of factors connected to having women serve in combat units, including physiological-medical considerations; human resource planning; how the women would try out for the units; how it would affect the military’s command structure going forward; how it would affect reserve service; how to have co-ed service while maintaining propriety; and other issues.

Critics of gender integration in the military often decry it as a dangerous social experiment with potential ramifications for national security, while defenders generally trumpet it as a long-needed measure, one that has already been implemented in many Western countries.

Fighter jets from the IAF’s second F-35 squadron, the Lions of the South, fly over southern Israel. (Israel Defense Forces)
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