The first ever female Royal Air Force commander of a Tornado bomber squadron was appointed yesterday and is set to lead air strikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State this summer, it is claimed.
Wing Commander Nikki Thomas made history after being put in charge of 250 fighter pilots and system operators at No 12 Squadron based at RAF Marham, Norfolk, and she is expected to lead the team in Iraq to support Operation Shader, the Eastern Daily Press reported.
She told the regional newspaper: “I am so proud I can’t stop smiling from ear to ear. I have been flying for 12 years and faced many different tasks but nothing as busy and challenging as this - but commanding a Squadron is something that really excites me. I would rather this sort of job than be stuck in an office all day.
“The fact that I am a woman has personally made no difference, nobody treats me differently, and hopefully the more this influences girls to join the better, because this is a great job.”
Wing Commander Thomas, who is in her 30s and is trained to fly a two-seater Tornado jet, is being coached in gruelling “escape and evasion” techniques to prepare for being shot down behind enemy lines. After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, she joined the force as a Navigator in 2000 according to her LinkedIn profile. She had also recently completed an MA in Defence Studies.
The 36-year-old, originally from Exmouth in Devon, has extensive experience of combat operations, clocking up more than 35 missions in Afghanistan within three months alone, according to The Telegraph.
In December 2009, as squadron leader of No 31 Squadron Tornado team, she formed the RAF's first all-female Tornado jet crew with pilot Flight Lieutenant Juliette Fleming and operated 500lb laser-guided Paveway IV bombs, Brimstone air-to-ground missiles and a 27mm gun to help British and American troops in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan.Reuse content