Flight Lieutenant Juliette Fleming, 30, and Squadron Leader Nikki Thomas, 31, have logged almost 100 hours flying ‘close air support’ for ground forces.
The pair, callsign Monster Seven Three, fly an aircraft armed with 500lb laser guided Paveway IV bombs, Brimstone air-to-ground missiles and a 27mm gun.
Their 24 missions to date, each lasting up to seven hours, have helped both American and British troops under fire in Helmand Province.
The pilot, Flt Lt Fleming, and navigator, Sq Ldr Thomas have flown the supersonic Tornado GR4 jet from their base at Kandahar airfield since October.
They are the only female crew among the pilots and navigators of 31 Squadron based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.
Flt Lt Fleming said her proudest moment to date involved helping to foil a rocket attack on their base at Kandahar airfield.
The pilot, from Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk, said of the incident in November: “There was a high threat and the base was expecting a rocket attack at any moment.
“The JTAC (Joint Terminal Air Controller) at Kandahar identified some men in a ditch, very close to the base.
“Their movement was extremely suspicious. They were, in fact, about to set up to fire a rocket. I took this rather more personally than I usually would have.
“These guys were setting up to fire into our accommodation, to fire on our friends and colleagues.
“We were already airborne over the base at the time the rocket crew were spotted.
“There was a lot of radio traffic as we immediately needed to clear the airspace around Kandahar for a ‘show of force.’
“The intention was to show the enemy beyond any doubt that we could see them and knew exactly what they were up to.
“I took the aircraft out to 15 miles from their position in the ditch and came down to low level. I approached the position at more than 500mph and as close to the Operational Low Flying minimum of 100 feet as I could.
“We passed directly over their position and continued for one or two seconds to take us about a mile from the target and I pulled the aircraft into a steep climb.
“It would have been quite an impressive sight. The noise would have been absolutely deafening. We did not have the ‘burner on which would have been even louder but even so it did the trick.
“The rocket crew ran away immediately, climbing into a truck and disappearing. There was no rocket attack that evening and that was extremely satisfying.
“We felt that we had made a small but tangible difference and helped to protect the people we were living and working with.”
Sq Ldr Thomas is the Squadron’s ‘Warlord’ on the ground, in charge of day to day operations and Flt Lt Fleming’s boss.
The navigator from Exmouth in Devon said: “We can perform a range of effects from a show of force to the provision of precise lethal force utilising a variety of advanced weaponry.
“The intention is to always use the minimum force required to provide the effect needed by the guys on the ground.
“We do whatever they need to help them out in a sticky situation, be that just a radio relay between the ground elements to dropping precision weaponry on insurgents.
“Flying with a female is not really any different than a male.
“The only difference is from other people. When you are Air to Air refuelling they are a lot more chatty with us compared to the guys, and the guys on the ground recognise your voice very quickly.”
In the air, Fleming has authority as the aircraft captain, but she said: “There is no rank in the aircraft. Once airborne we are Jules and Nikki, just like any other crew.
“Some of the older pilots in the RAF like to see aggression in fast jet aircrew but I’m not really like that. I don’t think of myself as an aggressive personality but I am extremely competitive and I think that helps to get the job done.”
For my (ex- RAF) beloved father who passed away this morning. I love you Dad.