US Uses F-35 in Combat for First Time in Afghanistan Airstrike

The Marine Corps on Thursday confirmed that a US F-35B has made its first airstrike. Air Force photo by SSgt. Keith James.

A Marine Corps official speaking on background has confirmed to Air Force Magazine that one of its F-35B fighters traveling with the Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex launched an airstrike in Afghanistan “in the past 24 hours,” marking the first known combat strike for any US F-35 strike fighter.

A press release later issued by the service clarified that the airstrike occurred on Sept. 27 and was “in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.”

“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 release said.

CNN first broke the story this morning, citing “three defense officials” as its source.

US Marines and sailors with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conduct flight deck operations in support of the Sept. 27 airstrike. Marine Corps video by Cpl. Francisco Diaz and Lance Cpl. A.J. Fredenberg.

The F-35B first entered the US Central Command area of responsibility earlier this month. Israeli F-35s made their combat debut earlier this year.

“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,” 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Commanding Officer Col. Chandler Nelms said in the release.