The US Marine Corps (USMC) has carried out the first combat strike in the US Central Command area of responsibility (CENTCOM AOR) in Afghanistan using its F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter jet.
Conducted in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, the air combat strike was the first of its kind carried out by the USMC F-35B aircraft.
During the mission, the combat jet performed the air strike in support of ground clearance operations. The operation was considered successful by the service’s ground force commander.
US Naval Forces Central Command commander vice-admiral Scott Stearney said: “The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theatre amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy.
“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 USMC’s 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is the first combat-deployed unit to replace the AV-8B Harrier ground-attack aircraft with the F35B Lightning II jet.
The F-35B combat jets from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 are currently deployed on the US Navy’s Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) as part of Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
Built by Lockheed Martin, the F-35B Lightning II is the short take-off / vertical landing variant of the aircraft that has been designed to operate from austere bases and a wide range of navy vessels near frontline combat zones.
The USMC aircraft reached its initial operational capability on 31 July 2015.