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Ryan Pickrell

  • A US F-35 engaged an enemy for the first time in a combat mission within the last 24 hours, CNN reported Thursday, citing three US defense officials.
  • A US Marine Corp F-35B launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex carried out a strike against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The US has sent the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter into combat for the first time, CNN reported Thursday, citing defense officials.

A Marine Corps F-35B launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex conducted an airstrike on a fixed Taliban target in Afghanistan sometime within the past 24 hours. The Essex arrived in the Middle East earlier this month, with the onboard F-35s being deployed for intelligence and surveillance operations in Somalia prior to operations in Afghanistan.

CNN's Thursday report follows an earlier post from Tuesday indicating that the F-35 could be deployed for combat within the next few days.

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The most expensive weapons system in the history of the US military, the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that has faced extensive criticism as numerous setbacks have hindered its deployment. The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to be deployed from assault ships like the Essex, which is smaller than modern aircraft carriers.

The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.

The Marine Corps variant — the F-35B — was the first to be declared combat ready. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 last year.

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