For the first time since their inception, American F-35B Joint Strike Fighters have entered into combat operations, according to statements released by Pentagon officials on Thursday, September 27.
While details remain sparse, it has been confirmed that at least one Marine Corps F-35B took off from the USS Essex amphibious assault ship and delivered ordnance on a fixed Taliban target somewhere in Afghanistan at some point within the 24 hours prior to the announcement on Thursday. Those same F-35Bs were also involved in intelligence and surveillance operations over Somalia within the past week, with multiple outlets reporting that the controversial fighters were standing by to engage with enemy targets for the first time if called upon to do so.
In the minds of many, this operation has the potential to serve as the watershed moment between years of F-35 discussion and debate and a new era in which the oft-touted fighter can either live up to expectations or prove its detractors right.
This does not mark the first time any F-35 has ever seen combat operations, as Israel was the first nation to put their Lockheed Martin fifth generation jets into the fight over Syria earlier this year. This is, however, the first time the F-35 has ever seen combat under the flag of the nation that has championed (and largely funded) its development and production — the United States.