US Air Force Command has confirmed that two F-35A Lightning II fighter jets have conducted an air strike against Daesh targets in Iraq, marking the first time the aircraft has been involved in a combat mission.
The airstrike was conducted 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", a release from the US Air Force said.
The strikes come as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, and supported by Iraqi Security Forces in an effort to disrupt to Daesh's "ability to regroup and reorganise".
US Central Command said that the remaining Daesh forces have been attempting to move munitions, equipment and personnel to Iraq to prepare for a resurgence.
“Although the territory once held by the so-called caliphate is fully liberated, Daesh fighters still exhibit their intention to exert influence and stage a comeback,” said Major General Chad Franks, Deputy Commander – Operations and Intelligence for CJTF-OIR.
"These airstrikes have demonstrated the coalition’s continued resolve to work with our Iraqi partners to strike Daesh wherever we find them as we continue to eliminate Daesh’s violent extremist ideology.”
The two jets used in the airstrikes come from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and were deployed just a fortnight ago to the Middle East.
“Having converted from flying the F-16 and being with the F-35 program here at Hill from the very beginning, this deployment is a huge milestone,” said Lieutenant Colonel Shad Stromberg, F-35 pilot in the 419th FW.
It also marked the first deployment of the F-35 to the Middle East.
“It’s exciting to be on this historic first F-35A deployment to the Middle East,” said Senior Airman Caleb Shumway, a weapons load crew member in the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
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“For us here at Hill, we practice loading munitions for these kinds of missions on a regular basis. The only difference for us this time around is that we’re taking these skills overseas.”