All of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter variants adopted across the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps "are breaking more often than planned and taking longer to fix," the Pentagon's chief weapons tester told lawmakers on Wednesday.
It's been just over four months since the Air Force's AC-130J Ghostrider kicked off combat missions in the skies above Afghanistan, and the aircraft that the service once described as "the ultimate battle plane" and "a bomb truck with guns on it" is already bringing the pain on a daily basis.
When Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael "Mob" Tremel took on an air-support mission on June 18, 2017, he didn't realize that he'd end up shooting down a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 fighter-bomber in the U.S. military's first air-to-air kill since 1999.
"The whole mission out there that day was to go defeat ISIS and annihilate ISIS," Tremel recalled of the incident during a September 2017 Tailhook Association symposium. "If at any point in time that day it had escalated, that would have been fine by us."
Tremel may carry the memory of that day with him everywhere, and now so will his aircraft: According to recent Pentagon photos, the F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-87 that Tremel flew into battle clearly carries a fresh victory marking — a scalp for one of the squadron's "Golden Warriors."