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A Pair of Female Marines Are Making History in the F-35

Featured Image: Capt. Anneliese Satz conducts pre-flight checks prior to a training flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, March 11. Satz graduated the F-35B Lighting II Pilot Training Program June and will be assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 in Iwakuni, Japan. (Sgt. Ashley Phillips/Marine Corps)

By Wes O’Donnell
Managing Editor, In Military. Veteran, U.S. Army & U.S. Air Force

This week, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that the first female Marine F-35B pilot graduated training. The Corps also announced the first female Marine selected to fly the F-35C.

[Note: The F-35 family includes three variants – all single-seat jets: The F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier variant (CV).]

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Marine Capt. Anneliese Satz made history by being the first female Marine to complete the F-35B syllabus; she joins a very small community of Marine F-35 pilots. The Marine Corps is staffed with only 86 F-35 pilots out of a roster of 263.

Due to this small number of pilots, the Marines are now selecting F-35 pilots directly from flight school. Before, the Corps only selected experienced F-18 pilots already serving in the fleet.

Marine 1st Lt. Catherine Stark is pictured here at her winging ceremony aboard Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas. (Anne Owens/Navy)

Meanwhile, Marine 1st Lt. Catherine Stark is the first female Marine to be selected to fly the F-35C carrier variant.

These two female Marines join a long list of outstanding women aviators dating back to Madame Therese Peltier, the first woman to fly an airplane solo in 1908.

The F-35: America’s Most Versatile Fighter Jet

The F-35 is a fifth-generation, supersonic, and multi-role fighter with advanced stealth capabilities, integrated avionics, sensor fusion, and superior logistics support.

Built by Lockheed Martin at a cost of $115.5M per aircraft (for the F-35B variant), the most lethal aspect of the F-35 is perhaps its unparalleled network-centric warfare capabilities. As a military doctrine, the employment of network-centric warfare means combining networking sensors, commanders, and shooters to flatten the command and control hierarchy, reduce the operational pause, enhance precision, and increase speed of command.

The U.S. Marine Corps is credited with the first F-35 combat use. On September 27, 2018, a United States Marines Corps F-35B attacked a Taliban target in Afghanistan, representing the first U.S. combat employment of this aircraft. The F-35B took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex in the Arabian Sea.

The Future of Pilots Stark and Satz

As for Stark and Satz, 1st Lt. Stark will soon begin a year-long training regimen at the Navy’s F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron in Lemoore, California. Capt. Satz joins the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (the Green Knights), based out of Iwakuni, Japan.

As women integrate deeper into combat arms roles throughout the military, there will come a day when a woman flying an F-35 won’t be newsworthy, but merely business as usual. Until then, there is no doubt our armed forces are stronger and better because of it.

Semper Fi.

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Wes O'Donnell

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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