The Marine Corps F-35B, Lightning II, conducted its first combat strikes in the U.S. Central Command area of responsability in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018.
During this mission the F-35B of US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 “Wake Island Avengers” conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander.
“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” said Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central command. “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.”
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the first combat-deployed MEU to replace the AV-8B Harrier with the F-35B Lightning II. The F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 are currently embarked on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) as part of Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
As seen in the night image the F-35B used for the strikes were equipped with the externally mounted GAU-22 25mm gun pod in addition to the weapons in the internal bays that should be the GBU-32 1000-lb JDAM (Joind Direct Attack Munitions).
“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 Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.
Source: US Marine Corps, US Navy Photo credits: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman/Released, U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg/Released (night image)