OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The U.S. Navy has shuffled its original staffing line-up for Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII flyover from a mostly male team to an all-female crew, even as the Pentagon has been dealing with serious incursions into American airspace, downing two craft in a single week.
According to Military.com on Friday, the final roster was announced a day earlier on Good Morning America, and it comprised 11 female pilots and flight officers out of a total of 16 aviators. Seven of the pilots will be performing the traditional game time flyover.
But, according to a Jan. 27 press release, the original group of 15 flight officers only included three women and were presented as commemorating 50 years of females taking part in the Navy’s aviation programs, the Daily Caller noted.
“The flyover also commemorates 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy. In 1973 the first eight women began flight school in Pensacola, Fla., and one year later six of those eight women, titled ‘The First Six,’ earned their Wings of Gold,” the press release stated. “Since then, women have served, operated, and led at every level of Naval Aviation.”
The Daily Caller noted further:
The press release highlighted the various aircraft, including two F/A-18F Super Hornets, an F-35C Lightning II and an EA-18G Growler, that will demonstrate American “strike and electronic attack capability” at the game before delving into the pilots themselves.
The initial announcement, still reflected in some social media posts, shows a small number of comments deriding the apparent lack of women in a lineup that was supposed to honor female Navy aviators. Most of the initial social media posts have since been deleted, according to Military.com.
“To commemorate 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy, the service will conduct a flyover of State Farm Stadium during the national anthem with female aviators as part of the formation,” the document says.
— U.S. Fleet Forces (@USFleetForces) February 10, 2023
Cmdr. Zach Harrell told Military.com that finding enough female aviators was difficult since they comprise only between 7 and 12 percent of all Navy fliers.
“There are several challenges involved in gathering aviators from several different squadrons, and with women as 20% of the population in the Navy, it makes it harder,” Harrell told the outlet.
“The whole focus for us is to really put out a lineup that helps us reinforce the message that we are commemorating the women that are serving in naval aviation,” he continued.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon was ordered to shoot down two craft — one of them a confirmed Chinese spy balloon — last week as the Navy remained focused on promoting one gender over the other ahead of the country’s biggest annual sporting event.
After an F-22 fighter shot down the balloon after it traversed the country, Pentagon officials announced that two more balloons had been spotted, The Washington Post reported. One of them was found floating over Latin America, but the Pentagon did not say where the third balloon was.
“The discovery of this military spy balloon and others — the presence of a second craft loitering over Latin America was disclosed on Friday, and officials say there is likely a third operating elsewhere — is highly embarrassing to the Chinese,” the report said.
“They’re in a very tough place,” a Pentagon official, who said China was humiliated by the spy balloon incident, told the Post. “And they have very few cards to play right now.”
The communist nation continued to insist that its balloon was “civilian” and not the spy balloon the United States said it is, and said it could “respond further,” The New York Post reported.
“In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention,” a Chinese official told The Post. “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further.”
A U.S. fighter jet downed another object off the northern coast of Alaska, the Defense Department announced on Friday, but officials did not say what it was.