The US F-35 has entered combat for the first time, conducting its first airstrike against the Taliban in Afghanistan

  • A US F-35 engaged an enemy for the first time in a combat mission within the last 24 hours, CNN reported Thursday, citing three US defence officials.
  • A US Marine Corp F-35B launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex carried out a strike against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The US has sent the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter into combat for the first time, CNN reported Thursday, citing defence officials.

A Marine Corps F-35B launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex conducted an airstrike in support of ground clearance operations on a fixed Taliban target in Afghanistan Thursday, according to a statement from US Naval Forces Central Command. The Essex arrived in the Middle East earlier this month, with the onboard F-35s being deployed for intelligence and surveillance operations in Somalia prior to operations in Afghanistan.

CNN’s Thursday report follows an earlier post from Tuesday indicating that the F-35 could be deployed for combat within the next few days. In the aftermath of a US F-35’s first combat mission, the Marine Corps released a video on Twitter showing the plane taking off from and landing on the Essex.

“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theatre amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement, “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”

The most expensive weapons system in the history of the US military, the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that has faced extensive criticism as numerous setbacks have hindered its deployment. The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to be deployed from assault ships like the Essex, which is smaller than modern aircraft carriers.

The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.

The Marine Corps variant – the F-35B – was the first to be declared combat ready. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 last year.

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