The British F-35Bs made their first operational missions over Syria

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Mark Wood

Mark served in the Marine Corps as a Lance corporal before retiring to spend time with his wife and young son. Today, he works part-time in construction and has numerous hobbies that keep him active. He founded Cole of Duty to write about military news around the world. He loves to discuss politics and the US budget, often debating with his wife and coworkers about who ought to be elected in 2020.

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Mark Wood

Six months after reaching their initial operational capability [IOC], the Royal Air Force [RAF] F-35Bs made their first aerial sorties over Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Shader, which is the British contribution to the anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States.

According to the explanations given by the British Ministry of Defense [MoD], two of the six F-35Bs deployed to Akrotiri [Cyprus] conducted a patrol over Syria on 16 June. And this first operational mission has since been followed by 12 more.

As a reminder, the F-35B Lightning II is the STOVL version of the 5th generation aircraft developed by Lockheed-Martin, with BAE Systems as a first level partner.

These aircraft have evolved alongside Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4. No hits were made during these 13 outings. The baptism of fire of the British F-35B will wait a little longer. Last year, their counterparts from the US Marine Corps USMC had been asked to destroy positions held by the Islamic State IS or ISIS in Syria. Same thing for the Israeli F-35I, but a priori against Syrian and Iranian air defenses.

Currently, the Royal Air Force has 17 F-35Bs, of which 9 are operated by No. 617 Squadron and 8 by No. 17 Squadron, the test and reception unit of the RAF based in the United States.

As stated by the MoD, the 6 F-35Bs of No. 617 Squadron first took part in the Lightning Dawn exercise from Cyprus. In the context of the latter, they carried out a total of 95 missions and 225 hours of flight.

“Because of the outstanding performance of these aircraft, their pilots and the technical staff during this period, it was decided that they were ready to make their operational debut from the Akrotiri base, alongside the Typhoons,” said the MoD.

“This first operational mission for the F-35 Lightning confirms the impressive progress we have made in the commissioning of this tremendous new capability,” said Chief Air Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of Flight of the RAF.

According to MoD plans, the United Kingdom intends to acquire 138 F-35B, which will be shared by the Royal Navy RAF and Fleet Air Arm.

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