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This report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. With the stroke of a pen on April 28, 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin eliminated a policy barring females from flying in combat, opening the door for first United States Air Force (USAF) female fighter and bomber aircrew. On the eve of the twenty-fifth anniversary of that momentous decision, groundbreaking aviators like Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, and Brigadier General (sel.) Kristen Goodwin, B-52 Stratofortress pilot, stand as exemplars for others to follow. Despite their achievement of General Officer rank and certain hardships in blazing the trail, in the fighter community very few females followed, and their population among the Combat Air Force (CAF) has been flat among fighter pilots and only incrementally rising among weapons systems operators. Currently, of the 2,400 fighter pilots in the CAF, only 42 females hold primary responsibility as fighter pilots, resulting in scarcity in front-line units. In fact, the CAF's most numerous fighter, the F-16C "Fighting Falcon" had only one female fighter pilot in the last six years at its second-largest operational wing, the 388th Fighter Wing. Shockingly, the AF's newest fifth-generation fighter, the F-35A "Lightning II", currently has zero females of 123 F-35 pilots, despite reaching its Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in August 2016.
Some might say the low percentages and stagnated rate of participation in fighter aircraft is not a problem, since the "door is open", and might also dismiss retention challenges as owed to females having left the Service to dedicate themselves fully to raising children. This paper challenges those assertions, and argues instead that "opening the door is not enough", and that subtle structural and cultural barriers limit advancement and stifle attainment of gender equality in the fighter community, which in turn yields an almost entirely male pool of General Officer candidates and General Officers. By understanding and appreciating the uniqueness of the fighter communities being integrated, rather than simply viewing them as "male-dominated", policy makers can better tailor appropriate solutions for inspiring, recruiting, training, and retaining talented females. Flying fighter aircraft imposes unique demands on female pilots, and as a consequence, unique challenges on their willingness to continue service to senior officer ranks, and should therefore receive just such a tailored approach. Only when a much increased cadre of combat ready and experienced female senior leaders is created will policies start to reflect a female "voice" and the AF begin to fully appreciate the diverse perspectives they bring.
Gender Integration in the USAF Fighter Community: 25 Years of Progress and Persistent Challenges * Introduction * Research Design * Findings * Conclusion and Implications * Notes
This compilation includes a reproduction of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.