Watch 2 F-35s flex in 'beast mode' on a war mission in the Middle East

US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris ThornburyAn F-35A Lightning II with a full external loadout at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in May 2019.
  • Two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters recently flew missions in “beast mode” in support of US forces in Afghanistan.
  • The fighters were each carrying a full loadout of external weapons, including six precision bombs and two air-to-air missiles.
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Two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters recently flew a mission in the Middle East in “beast mode,” meaning they were loaded up with as much firepower as they could carry.

The F-35s with the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron took off from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates to execute a mission in support of US forces in Afghanistan, Air Forces Central Command said. The fifth-generation fighters sacrificed their high-end stealth to fly with full loadouts of weaponry on their wings.

An F-35A Lightning II approaches a KC-10 Extender for aerial refuelling during an operation in support of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, May 2019.US Air ForceAn F-35A Lightning II in ‘beast mode’ during an operation in support of US forces in Afghanistan in May 2019.

“Beast mode,” the carrying of weapons internally and externally to boost the overall firepower of the aircraft, is also known as the “Third Day of War” configuration. At the start of a fight, the F-35 would store all of its weapons internally to maintain low observability, as the external weapons would likely increase the surfaces that enemy radar could detect.

The fighters carried six GBU-49 Paveway laser-guided precision bombs and two AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-tracking short-range air-to-air missiles externally. Air Forces Central Command released a video on Friday of 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Group teams loading the weapons onto the jets.

US Air Forces deployed the F-35A to the Middle East, the US Central Command area of responsibility, for the first time in April. The aircraft flew their first sortie on April 26.

A 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II pilot meets a crew chief April 26, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris ThornburyA F-35A Lightning II.

Four days later, the F-35s, which were pulled from the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing, conducted a strike in Wadi Ashai, Iraq. The mission, carried out in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve marked the F-35A’s first combat mission, according to the US Air Force.

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