- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Marine Corps‘ version of the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter carried out its first ever combat operations in the skies above Afghanistan, marking a key operational milestone for the next-generation fighter jet.

The jet fighter flown by aviators with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 attached to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit successfully executed an airstrike against enemy targets in Afghanistan, in support of “ground clearance operations” in the country, according to a service statement.

“The strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander,” officials said of the inaugural strike.

It remains unclear where in Afghanistan the strikes took place, but officials said fighter was launched from the U.S.S. Essex amphibious warship and the operation was carried out in support of the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, dubbed Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” U.S. Naval Forces Central command chief Vice Adm. Scott Stearney said.

Dubbed the F-35B, the fighter is designed to take off and land vertically aboard U.S. Navy warships and Marine Corps air bases, specifically those located in harsh, austere environments. The F-35B is slated to replace the Corps’ fleet of AV-8B Harrier jump jets, which initially entered service in the 1960s.

“The opportunity for us to be the first Navy, Marine Corps team to employ the F-35B in support of maneuver forces on the ground demonstrates one aspect of the capabilities this platform brings to the region, our allies, and our partners,” said 13th MEU Commander Col. Chandler Nelms.

“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,” Adm. Stearney added.

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