The Air Force’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter conducted its first combat strike in the Middle East April 30, just two weeks after it deployed to the region, the Air Force said Tuesday.
Two F-35A aircraft conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement. It is the third F-35A deployment as well as the first within the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.
The aircraft used a Boeing [BA]-built Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched tunnel network and weapons cache used by ISIS within the Hamrin Mountains in Iraq, the statement said. Lockheed Martin [LMT] manufactures the F-35.
“We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot, in the statement. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR contingencies.”
Morris noted that the F-35A and its crew trained in two Red Flag exercises prior to the CENTCOM deployment, and the aircraft has already been deployed to Europe and Asia.
The F-35 aircraft were deployed April 15 from active duty 388th and reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and are based at Al-Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
Morris highlighted the aircraft’s sensor suite and ability to enhance other battlefield assets within the Combined Joint airpower team in place in the region.
“The F-35A has sensors everywhere, it has advanced radar, and it is gathering and fusing all this information from the battlespace in real time,” he said.