Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II planes carried out an airstrike against an Islamic State tunnel network in Iraq on Tuesday, marking the first use of the sophisticated aircraft by the Air Force.
U.S. Air Force Central Command released a statement confirming that the strike occurred deep in Iraq’s Hamrin Mountains.
The high-tech stealth F-35As are based out of Hill Air Force Base in Utah. They dropped Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) on an ISIS tunnel network and weapons cache in an area called Wadi Ashai. Coalition forces have been battling ISIS fighters in the area, where they are believed to be moving and storing weapons.
The combat debut for the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B variant happened in September 2018, when two F-35Bs from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit launched from the USS Essex, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, and carried out an airstrike against Taliban targets in Afghanistan.
In May 2018, Israeli officials confirmed that the country’s F-35 “Adir” had conducted two airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East, marking the combat debut for the F-35.
It’s been a long road for the F-35 to finally be used in combat. The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is the most expensive weapon ever produced and has suffered a number of setbacks.
“The F-35A has sensors everywhere, it has advanced radar, and it is gathering and fusing all this information from the battlespace in real time,” Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a news release. “Now it has the ability to take that information and share it with other F-35s or even other fourth generation aircraft in the same package that can also see the integrated picture.”