Deployed F-35As conduct first combat strike

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A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II prepares to connect with a KC-10 Extender during an aerial refueling mission above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019. The mission marked the F-35A’s first air interdiction during its inaugural deployment to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s area of responsibility.

SOUTHWEST ASIA–Two F-35As, deployed to the Middle East from the active duty 388th and Reserve 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30.

This strike marked the F-35A Lightning II’s first combat mission.

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.

“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. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR contingencies.”

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis down the flightline before taking off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019. The F-35A is deployed to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility for the first time in the Air Force’s history.

The F-35As, recently deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the U.S. Central Command area of operations on April 15. In preparation for deployment, crews prepared and trained on the aircraft for the AFCENT mission.

“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,” said Morris. “Now it has the ability to take that information and share it with other F-35s or even other fourth generation aircraft in the same package that can also see the integrated picture.”