On its first combat deployment, the Marine Corps’ F-35 bombed both the Taliban and ISIS

news
F-35 Lightning IIs Roll Deep On The USS Essex

As it returns from its first combat deployment, the Marines' version of the F-35 is no longer a baby-faced boot.

F-35Bs flew more than 100 combat sorties against the Taliban and ISIS while deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said Lt. Col. Kyle Shoop, commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211.


"We overall supported more than 50 days of combat flying for over 1,200 flight hours," Shoop told Task & Purpose. "We supported both Operation Freedom's Sentinel up in the Afghanistan region as well as Operation Inherent Resolve over Syria/Iraq. We employed ordnance in both theaters on numerous days," Shoop said. "Every single one of the pilots employed ordnance in theater. So, we were very busy."

The Essex quietly left San Diego in July along with the F-35B squadron and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. The F-35B got its first taste of combat in September against a Taliban weapons cache in Afghanistan.

The aircraft that flew the mission had two names inscribed on it, Shoop said: Medal of Honor recipient Capt.Henry Talmage "Hammering Hank" Elrod and Lt .Col. Christopher "Otis" Raible, the squadron's former commander, who was killed in 2012 while repelling a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion while armed only with a pistol.

During its deployment, the F-35B squadron flew close air support missions over both Afghanistan and Syria, Shoop said. In Syria, the aircraft also helped assess the damage done by coalition airstrikes in bad weather because the F-35's radar is far better than the F/A-18 Hornets' sensors.

Neither Syrian or Russian air defenses attempted to engage the F-35Bs during the missions against ISIS, he said.

"We would see Russian airplanes airborne as well as Syrian, but everyone maintained their lines of de-confliction that were set up prior," Shoop said.

Overall, the F-35 exceeded expectations during its first deployment, Shoop said. The squadron was able to keep 75 percent of its aircraft operational at all times, allowing it to "fly pretty much at will."

All of the F-35 pilots were awarded air medals because of the high number of combat missions they flew, said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer of the 13th MEU.

Some of the MEU's Marines also contributed to the fight against ISIS, Nelms said. An infantry platoon and a CH-53E detachment went to Iraq to provide a reaction force and assault support airlift, and an artillery platoon deployed to Syria with M777 Howitzers.

Nelms declined to say if any of his Marines had been nominated for valor awards.

The Essex is slated to return home soon, but not everyone with the MEU is coming back. Cpl. Jonathan Currier was declared dead in August after falling overboard in the Mindanao Sea. Currier was a CH-53E Super Stallion crew chief.

"The loss of Cpl. Currier is felt across the MEU and across the ARG [amphibious ready group] and it has been since last August," Nelms said. "Everybody misses him. We just recently held a memorial on our return transit to continue our remembrance of his selfless service and honor his life. It was a tough loss and our hearts just really go out to his family."

SEE ALSO: Exclusive: 2 Marines Received Valor Awards For Secret Gunfight Against Al Qaeda In North Africa

WATCH NEXT: This Week In War - Episode 1

U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Dec. 6, 2006. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

An 18-year-old Army recruit at Fort Jackson died following a "medical emergency" before a training drill, according to an officials with the base.

Read More Show Less
Lance Cpl. Job Wallace (Facebook)

A Camp Pendleton Marine who was believed to be headed back to the base from Arizona on Monday, but never arrived, was found safe in Texas Saturday night, military officials said.

Read More Show Less
Guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) Sailors participate in a memorial for the shipÕs namesake, Robert D. Stethem. Navy diver, Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem, who was returning from an assignment in the Middle East, when he was taken hostage aboard TWA 847 commercial airliner. The flight was hijacked by terrorists, and Stethem was shot to death after being tortured by the terrorists on June 15, 1985. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Danny Ewing Jr.)

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police have arrested a 65-year-old Lebanese man suspected of involvement in the 1985 hijacking of a Trans World Airlines (TWA) plane in which a U.S. navy diver was killed.

A Greek police official said on Saturday the suspect had disembarked from a cruise ship on the island of Mykonos on Thursday and that his name came up as being wanted by German authorities.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

SAN DIEGO — John Timothy Earnest didn't hide his smirks as he sat in a San Diego courtroom on Thursday, watching surveillance video of Lori Gilbert-Kaye being shot down inside the lobby of a Poway synagogue.

Earnest also smiled as a synagogue congregant testified about running toward the shooter, screaming "I'm going to kill you!" and seeing the gunman "with a look of astonishment or fear" turn and run.

Earnest, 20, is facing one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in the shootings at Chabad of Poway on April 27. He also faces an arson charge related to an Escondido mosque fire in March, when several people who were sleeping inside escaped unharmed.

Read More Show Less