While Lt. Col. Christine Mau was chosen to be the Air Force’s first female F-35 pilot, she said one of her most memorable career moments came as an F-15E pilot. While speaking at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on Oct. 6, Mau, the 33rd Operations Group deputy commander at Eglin AFB, Fla., said she racked up over 2,000 flying hours in the F-15E Strike Eagle, including during multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with successful strikes. One of her most memorable sorties occurred when she and her wingman helped take out key leaders of the Haqqani network within minutes of arriving on the scene. While refueling over central Afghanistan, she and her wingman were retasked with supporting special forces in eastern Afghanistan. “So I said, ‘Sweet, see ya,’ left my wingman on the tanker and I went straight there,” Mau said. While checking in with the joint terminal attack controler, an MQ-9 Reaper fired a Hellfire missile at the Haqqani fighters. She was able to laser-spot-track the MQ-9’s target and drop a 2,000-GPS guided weapon within two minutes of checking in with the JTAC. Her wingman then rolled in, hooked her mark through the data link, and dropped a weapon within one minute of checking on. “For those of you with any concept of fighter aviation, that shortened kill chain is incredibly impressive, incredibly impressive, and it can only be done by lots and lots of practice and great sensors and weaponry that we have,” Mau said. All five targets were hit. “So it was a pretty good day, and we killed a lot of bad guys and kept coalition forces safe,” Mau said.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.