Two F-35A fighter jets have conducted airstrikes on a Daesh tunnel network to target a weapons cache in the Hamrin Mountains in Wadi Ashai in Iraq, marking the first time the aircraft has been flown in a combat mission, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said Tuesday.
"We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal," said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot.
"That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR [area of responsibility] contingencies."
Morris said the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II plane has the ability to gather information from a battle space in real time and then share it with other F-35s.
The jet is touted as one of the world's most advanced stealth aircraft.
The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the U.S. Central Command area of operations (AOR) on April 15. This marks the F-35A's third deployment and first to the CENTCOM AOR.
"We have been successful in two Red Flag exercises, and we've deployed to Europe and Asia," said Morris. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise which includes U.S. and allied nations' combat air forces.
The planes were deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates (UEA) as part of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the Daesh terrorist group and the threat it poses to Iraq, Syria and the international community.
The strikes came a day after Daesh chieftain Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi made an appearance on a video for the first time after five years. The first combat deployment of the F-35A also tested the strike capability of the stealth jets as Turkey is scheduled to receive Russian made surface-to-air missile (SAM) system S-400 in June. Apart from Turkey, China and India also signed a deal for S-400 with Russia and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Vietnam and Iraq have all discussed buying the S-400 missile system from Russia.
Three weeks ago a Japanese F-35A jet crashed into the ocean during a training mission.
It was only the second incident where an F-35 crashed in an accident. In September, a U.S. F-35B jet crashed near Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina.
The B model of the plane, flown by the Marine Corps, conducted an airstrike last year in Afghanistan.
The multinational F-35 joint strike fighter program is carried out with the participation of eight North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, including Turkey. Joining the project in 1999, Turkey has so far spent $12 billion on the program and has four jets in its possession with Turkish pilots continuing their training at Luke Air Base in Arizona.
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