The F-35 joint strike fighter is prepared to enter combat for this first time this week with the U.S. Marine Corps. As CNN reports, the state-of-the-art aircraft is slated to take off from the USS Essex within days to deliver airstrikes over Afghanistan.
The Essex is headed for the Persian Gulf, defense officials told CNN. (RELATED: Reporters Take On F-35 Fighter Jet Simulation)
The F-35 is also the primary fighter jet chosen by the U.S. Air Force, Britain’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force. It could still someday be used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as the Canadian military retires its F-18s.
F-35s are currently engaged in surveillance operations over Somalia and could be used to support ground forces there.
The USMC is flying the F-35B version of the fighter; it is capable of landing vertically and is ideal for aircraft carrier operations. Although the fighter is a technological marvel that combines speed, agility and stealth capability, it has had its share of critics who say the plane entered service with some unsolved engineering issues.
The USMC was ready with its first squadron of F-35s in July of 2015, while the USAF followed one year later with its own operational capability.
President Donald Trump is a particular fan of the F-35, praising the aircraft for its “invisible” stealth characteristics, which means it is difficult to detect on enemy radar.