One of President Donald Trump’s top priorities in office has been to rebuild and strengthen the U.S. military into an advanced, battle-ready force that can achieve victory as efficiently and effectively as possible.
That initiative includes ensuring all branches have the latest and greatest technologies available, and the U.S. Air Force just took a major step in this direction by showcasing for the first time in battle the capabilities of the F-35A fighter jet.
First American combat use of F-35A fighter
Defense News reported that U.S. Air Force Central Command used two of the new F-35A’s on April 30 to conduct airstrikes against a suspected tunnel network and weapons cache being used by the remnants of the Islamic State group in Iraq.
The strikes on Tuesday reportedly represent the first time the U.S. Air Force has used the new advanced fighter jets in combat, though the Israeli Air Force had already used F-35s to conduct airstrikes in May 2018, and the U.S. Marines had used the F-35 B variant in combat in September 2018.
The airstrikes occurred in northeast Iraq near Wadi Ashai, where the Islamic State group was attempting to regroup and create a staging area for future attacks aimed at re-establishing the destroyed “caliphate.”
U.S Central Command, along with Iraqi Security Forces, became aware of the munitions, equipment and personnel that had been gathered together in the area and determined that a counter-offensive would be necessary to disrupt the Islamic State group’s conditions for their resurgence.
Airstrikes target Islamic State group
In a statement about the mission, a spokesperson for Air Forces Central Command used the derogatory Arabic term “Daesh” for the terrorist group and said, “The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces.”
The Air Force declined to offer any further information on the airstrikes, including whether or not the strikes were deemed successful. The Air Force has also not made clear how many of the new F-35As have been deployed to the Middle Eastern theater to be used in combat operations.
However, it is known that an unspecified number of the advanced fighter jets were deployed on April 15 to the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. Those fighters are from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
Highly advanced fighter jet sees action at last
The F-35 fighter, produced by Lockheed Martin, has been a controversial project that has been ongoing for some 20 years of development and will ultimately cost upwards of $1 trillion in taxpayer money. However, most of the pilots who have flown the state-of-the-art aircraft have nothing but the highest praise for it.
Lt. Col Yosef Morris, F-35A pilot and commander of the 4th Fighter Squadron, said of the jet’s capabilities in combat, “We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal.”
“That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR [area of responsibility] contingencies,” he added of the not-quite-stealth fighter jets that nevertheless feature all of the latest and most impressive bells and whistles.