Built to win World War III, the F-35 is mostly being used to bomb caves and other stationary targets


VIDEO: US and Iraqi forces drop 80,000 pounds of munitions on an ISIS island

The F-35 is built to win wars against China and Russia, but since the United States is not fighting either country at the moment, it's mostly being used to bomb caves and weapons caches — a mission that older and cheaper aircraft can do just as well.

The Marine Corps' F-35B variant flew its first combat mission in September 2018 by dropping two bombs on a weapons cache in Afghanistan. The Air Force's F-35A's combat debut came in April, when two aircraft attacked an ISIS cave and tunnel complex in northeast Iraq.

More recently, F-35s joined F-15s in dropping 80,000 pounds of ordnance on Iraq's Qanus Island, which was "infested" with ISIS fighters, Army Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for U.S. and coalition forces fighting ISIS, tweeted Sept. 10.

"This air strike denied ISIS terrain and hiding areas for smuggling lethal aid and fighters," Caggins told Task & Purpose. "The strikes enabled the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service's ground clearance operation on Qanus Island."

While the targets struck by F-35s in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere may have been thoroughly destroyed, it is worth noting that neither ISIS nor the Taliban possess sophisticated air defense systems, including jet fighters, that require the stealthy F-35 with its suite of advanced sensors to defeat.

Lawmakers are frustrated that the Air Force has not yet asked defense industry to submit proposals for cheap light attack aircraft that could fly combat missions against adversaries that do not have sophisticated air defenses, freeing more advanced aircraft to fight against near-peer enemies.

Such light attack aircraft could have carried out the airstrikes on Qanus Island, especially considering the Government Accountability Office has found there are not enough spare parts to keep F-35s flying often enough "to meet warfighter requirements," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) suggested during Air Force Secretary nominee Barbara Barrett's Sept. 12 confirmation hearing.

"I have real concerns about using fifth-generation aircraft to strike a bunch of terrorists hiding in the bushes," Cotton said at the hearing. "It feels to me like we should be using aircraft that are suitable in an environment in which we have total air dominance and our F-35s and their pilots should be training for high end conflict against adversaries like China."

A spokesman for U.S. Air Forces Central Command said a number of factors go into selecting which aircraft will fly missions, including crew rest, maintenance schedules, availability of alternate aircraft, and range and aerial refueling availability.

"The Qanus Island strike was planned and executed just like the missions before, during, and after it," Air Force Lt. Col. Brus Vidal told Task & Purpose.

"The decision to use F-35's that day as part of a larger strike package, which also included F-15E's, was determined to be the most pragmatic, balanced, and effective choice relative to all the considerations that must be synchronized."

A Syrian commando-in-training applies the safety on his rifle during basic rifle marksmanship training in Syria, July 20, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Alec Dionne)

The U.S. government failed to effectively account for nearly $715.8 million in weapons and equipment allocated to Syrian partners as part of the multinational counter-ISIS fight, according to a new report from the Defense Department inspector general.

Read More

On Feb. 19, 1945, more than 70,000 U.S. Marines conducted an amphibious assault to take the Island of Iwo Jima from fortified Japanese forces. Over the next 36 days nearly 7,000 Marines would be killed during the battle, which is regarded as one of the bloodiest of World War II, as they faced hidden enemy artillery, machine guns, vast bunker systems and underground tunnels. Of the 82 Marines who earned the Medal of Honor during all of World War II, 22 medals were earned for actions on Iwo Jima.

Now, 75 years later, 28 Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima gathered to remember the battle at the 75th and final commemoration sunset ceremony Feb. 15, 2020, at the Pacific Views Event Center on Camp Pendleton, California.

Read More
REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), has long been seen as an apologist for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whom she met during a secret trip to Damascus in January 2017.

Most recently, a video was posted on Twitter shows Gabbard evading a question about whether Assad is a war criminal.

Since Gabbard is the only actively serving member of the military who is running for president — she is a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard — Task & Purpose sought to clarify whether she believes Assad has used chlorine gas and chemical weapons to kill his own people.

Read More
Barrett's bolt-action Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) system (Courtesy photo)

The Army is almost doubling its purchase of new bolt-action Precision Sniper Rifles as its primary anti-personnel sniper system of choice, according to budget documents.

Read More
The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Air Force gunsmiths recently completed delivery of a new M4-style carbine designed to break down small enough to fit under most pilot ejection seats.

Read More