BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:00 A.M.) – The United Kingdom has deployed its F-35 stealth fighter jets to the Middle East as the Royal Air Force continues its operations against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh) in Syria and Iraq.
Citing Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Britain’s ITV reported that the latter visited Royal Air Force’s base in Cyprus, where RAF pilots are training with six of their F-35 jets.
“I am very proud that these are now flying in defense and in projecting the UK’s national interest,” Mordaunt began. “This is a fantastic new aircraft, it is amazing, it’s doing so well out here on these operations… it’s a really historic moment.”
“It obviously has some incredible capabilities which are really putting us in the lead,” she continued.
The jets were deployed to Cyprus, where British Eurofighter Typhoons are also stationed, on Exercise Lightning Dawn, the first overseas deployment for the RAF F-35s which was designed to allow pilots and engineers to gain experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment.
In the past four weeks, the jets have flown in pairs for more than 225 hours, just over 30% of their total flying hours in the last year, and carried out 95 missions before joining Operation Shader, the name given to the UK’s contribution in the ongoing military action against IS.
No bombs have been dropped or missiles fired by the F-35s during their operational missions, which involved armed reconnaissance.
Group Captain Jonny Moreton, the commanding officer of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing based at RAF Akrotiri, said there had yet to be any requirement for the F-35s to attack.
“We haven’t dropped any weapons from Typhoon (also flying as part of Operation Shader) in that period either,” he added. “It is not a very kinetic phase of the operation at the moment.”