The US Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has made its combat debut in Iraq.
Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) announced that two Lightning II stealth jets – the most advanced fighters in the US military’s inventory – were used to conduct an “airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched tunnel network and a weapons cache” belonging to the Islamic State deep in the Hamrin Mountains in northeast Iraq.
News of the strike comes about two weeks after AFCENT announced that an undisclosed number of aircraft from the active duty 388th Fighter Wing (FW) and reserve 419th FW at Hill Air Force Base in Utah had been deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates for the F-35A’s first combat deployment. AFCENT did not disclose how long the deployment would last.
The multirole F-35A is currently being operated in the Block 3F (full combat capability) configuration. As such, it is cleared to carry a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry in two internal bays and on 11 external hardpoints.