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Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-15J Eagles fly in formation June 11, 2012, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Japan's Defense Ministry will soon allow female Self-Defense Force members to pilot fighter jets.

Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-15J Eagles fly in formation June 11, 2012, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Japan's Defense Ministry will soon allow female Self-Defense Force members to pilot fighter jets. (Jim Araos/U.S. Air Force)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Japan’s Defense Ministry may soon allow female Self-Defense Force members to pilot fighter jets and reconnaissance planes.

The decision — in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy to create better working environments and opportunities for women — is expected to be announced soon, the ministry said Thursday.

The first female fighter pilots are expected to fly F-15 and F-4 fighter jets after about three years of training, and there are already women within the Japan Air Self-Defense Force who plan to apply, sources told Kyodo News.

Previously, female Self-Defense Forces pilots were allowed to fly only transport and patrol aircraft.

The United States dropped restrictions on women flying combat missions in 1993.

news@stripes.com

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