F-35B fighter jets of the US Marines flew over 100 combat sorties against the Taliban and ISIS while deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, Lt. Col. Kyle Shoop, commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, told Task & Purpose.
“We overall supported more than 50 days of combat flying for over 1,200 flight hours,” Shoop stressed. “We supported both Operation Freedom’s Sentinel up in the Afghanistan region as well as Operation Inherent Resolve over Syria/Iraq. We employed ordnance in both theaters on numerous days.”
“Every single one of the pilots employed ordnance in theater. So, we were very busy.”
According to Shoop, the F-35B squadron flew close air support missions over Afghanistan and Syria. He pointed out that in Syria the F-35B helped assess the damage done by coalition airstrikes in bad weather because its radar is better than the F/A-18 Hornet’s one. Shoop continued by saying that neither Syrian or Russian air defenses attempted to engage F-35B jets.
“We would see Russian airplanes airborne as well as Syrian, but everyone maintained their lines of de-confliction that were set up prior,” he said.
The F-35B was for for the first time employed in real combat in September 2018 when it targeted a Taliban weapons cache in Afghanistan. Now, it seems that the US military is expanding the F-35 involvement in its operations.