The F-35 Just Made Its First Combat Mission, But It Wasn’t The US Flying It

Thomas Phippen | Reporter

Israel claims it has completed air strikes on Syrian targets with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to reports, which would be the first time the American-made fifth-generation jet has ever been in combat situation.

“The F-35 squadron has become an operational squadron,” Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said during the International Air Force Commander Convention opening in Israel Tuesday. “In fact, we have performed the first operational F-35 strike in the world. We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts.”

It’s unclear what role the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 — to which the Israeli Air Force has given the Hebrew name “Adir,” which means “mighty” — played in recent conflicts, but Norkin went on to describe recent counterattacks on Iranian targets in Syria after the exchange of missiles on May 10. (RELATED: While The West Was Sleeping, Israel And Syria Clashed In Their Biggest Battle Since 1973 War)

“Over the past weeks, we understood that Iran was transporting long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, among which are ‘Uragan’ missile launchers which we attacked, just north of Damascus,” Norkin said. “The Iranians fired 32 rockets towards Israel. We intercepted four of them, while the rest fell outside of Israel’s territory. Afterwards, we attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria.”

Syrian defenses fired more than 100 surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft, and in response Israel destroyed the batteries. “[W]e attacked over 20 Iranian targets in Syria,” Norkin said. “Unfortunately, Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 antiaircraft missiles at our planes and in response we destroyed their antiaircraft batteries.”

“A short time later, we destroyed a 20-meter deep Hamas tunnel,” Norkin said.

A senior Israeli Air Force officer told Haaretz that there may have been other military missions since that event. “We are continuing to maintain our freedom of action in the region,” the official said. “We are acting to disrupt and prevent [possible attacks] while keeping the situation below the threshold of war.”

Israel received its first two F-35s in December 2016, and at least nine of the 50 jets the country has ordered have been delivered, Reuters reported.

The F-35 has had its share of difficulties, including massive price increases and production delays as Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon work through the new design features. The first F-35’s achieved operational readiness in 2016, several years behind schedule.

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