SAN DIEGO — The US military’s F-35B joint strike fighter conducted its first-ever airstrike on Thursday, according to the US Marine Corps and three US defense officials.
The strike took place in Afghanistan against a fixed Taliban target. The aircraft involved were the US Marine Corps’ variant of the aircraft flying from the USS Essex amphibious assault ship.
The operation involved Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of Camp Pendleton, and the USS Essex, which is homeported at Naval Base San Diego.
The Marines confirmed the strike in a statement: “During this mission the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander.”
The F-35 stealth jet has been called the most expensive weapons system in history, and its development was beset by multiple delays before it was deemed combat ready.
It is touted as the future of military aviation: a lethal and versatile aircraft that combines stealth capabilities, supersonic speed, extreme agility and state-of-the-art sensor fusion technology, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane’s primary contractor.
The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 aircraft and the only one with the ability to land vertically like a helicopter. It can also take off in a much shorter space than other fighter jets. The Marine Corps variant was the first to be designated combat ready.
The F-35 has been a favorite of President Donald Trump, who has lauded the aircraft several times for being “invisible.” The aircraft has reduced capability to be seen by adversary radars but is not invisible.