UK’s F-35 stealth fighter jets join fight against ISIS
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The UK’s new F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jets have joined the fight against the Islamic State in their first operations against the terrorist group, the Ministry of Defence said on Monday.
The warplanes are based in Cyprus and have already carried out over 14 arms reconnaissance missions in Iraq and Syria, the ministry added.
The F-35s have not carried out any attacks in the two countries, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) said in a statement, noting that reconnaissance operations had gone “exceptionally well.”
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt called it “a really historic moment,” BBC quoted him as saying.
Britain has deployed six of its jets at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus since May for training, known as Exercise Lightening Dawn.
According to the Defence Ministry, the jets have conducted 95 missions and flew in pairs for 225 hours.
The country currently has 17 F-35B Lightening II stealth fighter jets and plans to buy 138 in total from US giant, Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft costs about £100 million (US $127.6 million) and can land vertically, similar to the Harrier Jump Jet.
“We are very proud that these are now flying in defence,” Mordaunt said at the Cypriot RAF base.
“It obviously has some incredible capabilities, which are really putting us in the lead,” she added.
The UK is one of the members of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State which has provided military training, humanitarian, and logistic support to the Kurdistan Region and Iraq since 2015.
British warplanes have carried out plenty of air strikes targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Editing by Nadia Riva