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Air Force F-35As Strike Iraqi Targets During First Combat Mission

Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, fly in formation on April 30, 2019. (USAF)

Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II jets performed an air strike over Iraq on Tuesday marking the first use of an F-35A in a combat mission.

Based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the twin F-35As performed a munition strike at an entrenched tunnel network which supported a large weapons cache in the Hamrin Mountains. The Air Force’s fifth generation multi-role fighters arrived in Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE on April 15 for its first deployment in the Middle East.

Tuesday’s display is one step closer for the Air Force in replacing their aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The Marines (F-35B) and the Navy (F-35C) also look to the jet to replace their aircraft, including the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harriers.

An Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-35A Lightning II on April 30, prior to the F-35As first air interdiction. (USAF)

“The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat,” Gen. David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said. “When it comes to having a ‘quarterback’ for the coalition joint force, the inter-operable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role.”

The F-35As air interdiction was in support of Combined Joint Task Force’s Operation Inherent Resolve. The newly arrived F-35As are working with U.S. aircraft stationed at Al Dhafra.

“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,” Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, an F-35A pilot and commander of the 4th Fighter Squadron, said on Tuesday. “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.”

A U.S. Air Force F-35A begins its first air combat mission to Iraq on April 30, 2019. (USAF)

In the United States, the Air Force’s F-35A Demonstration Team isperforming at air shows this year through November. Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson will pilot the aircraft through top maneuvers during a fifteen minute display.

(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)

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Charles Atkeison

Written by Charles Atkeison

Charles A Atkeison is a long time aerospace journalist having covered both military and civilian aviation, plus 30 space shuttle launches from Cape Canaveral. He has produced multimedia aerospace content for CNN, London's Sky News, radio, print, and the web for twenty years. From flying with his father at age 5 to soaring as a VIP recently with the Navy's Blue Angels and USAF Thunderbirds, Charles continues to enjoy all aspects of flight.

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