British F-35B fighter jets have carried out their first operational missions by flying over Syria and Iraq, the U.K. Defense Ministry announced yesterday.
The fighter jets flew alongside Typhoon aircraft as part of the fight against Daesh earlier this month, said a ministry statement. The jets first took off from a British air base on June 16 in Akrotiri, on the island of Cyprus, the statement said. Since the first operational flight was made, the fighter jets have done more than 10 sorties, it said.
The U.K. currently owns 17 F-35B aircraft and more jets are due in the coming years under an overall plan to procure 138 aircraft over the life of the program, said the ministry.
Six of the jets have been deployed at Royal Air Force (RAF) Akrotiri in Cyprus since May for training exercises, in an operation known as Exercise Lightning Dawn.
The first of Britain's most advanced and expensive fighter jets have now carried out more than a dozen missions over Iraq and Syria. The F-35s have not yet conducted any airstrikes. Instead, they've been using their sophisticated sensors to gather intelligence.
Group Captain Jonny Moreton, the commanding officer of the 903 Expeditionary Air Wing based at RAF Akrotiri, said there had yet to be any requirement for the F-35s to attack. "We haven't dropped any weapons from Typhoon in that period either," he added. "It is not a very kinetic phase of the operation at the moment."