Marine Corps F-35B Conducts Combat Strikes in Afghanistan


The Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II conducted its first combat strikes in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan yesterday.

An F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter.
A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, conducted a training flight from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan, June 26, 2017. A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II conducted its first combat strikes in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Charles Plouffe
An F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter.
F-35B
A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, conducted a training flight from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan, June 26, 2017. A Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II conducted its first combat strikes in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Charles Plouffe

The airstrike in support of ground clearance operations 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 Navy Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney, commander of 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.”

Replacement for Harrier

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit is the first combat-deployed MEU to replace the AV-8B Harrier with the F-35B Lightning II. The F-35B’s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 are embarked on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex as part of Essex Amphibious Ready Group.

“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 Marine Corps Col. Chandler S. Nelms, commanding officer of the 13th MEU.