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US Air Force deploys F-35As on their FIRST combat mission (PHOTOS)

US Air Force deploys F-35As on their FIRST combat mission (PHOTOS)
Nearly three years after the US Air Force declared F-35As fit for combat duty, two of the stealth jets have finally seen real action over the mountains of Iraq, bombing Islamic State targets, the military has announced.

The strikes in support of Operation Inherent Resolve were carried out by two US Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft over Wadi Ashai, Iraq on Tuesday.

“The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh [Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS] tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces,” the statement said.

“This strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.”

Fifteen years after Lockheed Martin won the contract to make the plane, the US Air Force declared F-35As ready for deployment in August 2016. It then took nearly three years to use the fifth-generation combat aircraft in warfare. Israel beat the US to it by becoming the first country in the world to carry out an “operational attack” using the stealth fighter last May.

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Despite the two confirmed combat missions, the flagship stealth jets continue to suffer technical problems.

In April, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter crashed off the coast of Japan. The ill-fated plane had issues with its cooling and navigation systems prior to the crash, Japan’s Ministry of Defense revealed, exposing other issues related to the fuel and hydraulics systems of its F35A fleet.

The F-35 series has been marred with controversies over its frequent delays in development, excessive costs, and multiple technical flaws. A 2018 report from the US Government Accountability Office found that the program had more than 960 “open deficiencies” that needed to be resolved. In February, a Pentagon report revealed even more issues with the plane, including problems with its gun and the fact that its operational lifespan turned out to be much lower than planned.

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