The U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft conducted its first combat strike in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Sept. 27.
During this mission, the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander.
“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” said Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the first combat-deployed MEU to replace the AV-8B Harrier with the F- 35B Lightning II. The F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 are currently embarked on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) as part of U.S. Navy’s Essex Amphibious Ready Group.
The Essex ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). During deployment they will operate with embarked forces of the 13th MEU, PHIBRON 1, the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
The 13th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 Reinforced and VMFA 211; the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/1; and the Logistics Combat Element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 13.