The MoD say that F-35 jets have flown alongside Typhoon aircraft over the skies of Syria and Iraq.
It is understood however that the aircraft did not carry out any strikes.
The MoD say that the sorties follow a successful training period in Cyprus, known as Exercise Lightning Dawn, aimed at building capability for the aircraft and supporting elements.
“Due to the exceptional performance of the aircraft, pilots, and support staff during this time, it was decided that they were ready to make their operational debut from RAF Akrotiri, alongside the Typhoons.”
Lightning’s have been supporting Operation Shader, the fight against Islamic State, since June the 16th. The two aircraft conducted a patrol over Syria, and British F-35s have flown a further 12 sorties since then.
“The F-35s are the most advanced jets our country has ever possessed and will form the backbone of British air defence for decades to come,” Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said, speaking at RAF Akrotiri.
“They have passed every test their training has thrown at them with flying colours and their first real operational mission is a significant step into the future for the UK.”
Later in the year, 617 Squadron will embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time. The UK jets will conduct Operational Tests, alongside 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron, onboard the carrier in the USA during the WESTLANT 19 deployment, proving their capability at sea.
The MoD say that this is vital step on the path to the first Carrier Strike Deployment planned for 2021.
“It’s great to see our F35B Lightning jets already proving themselves on operations so early in their life cycle, ably demonstrating the fantastic capability these world-leading aircraft offer.
This Autumn, our aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to the East Coast of the United States to conduct Operational Trials with our Lightning Force, taking this 5th generation capability to the next level as they prove their ability to operate from the sea.
For decades to come, this exciting new combination of aircraft carriers and F35B Lightnings will provide a potent, globally deployable carrier strike capability, a powerful conventional deterrent and the centrepiece of our country’s expeditionary forces.”
Recently, the 17th F-35B for the UK was delivered. Numbers right now are exactly where they’re expected to be and inline with the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
2 F-35B in LRIP run 3, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 4, 1 F-35B in LRIP run 7, 4 F-35B in LRIP run 8, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 9, 3 F-35B in LRIP run 10, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 11, 2 F-35B in LRIP run 12, 6 F-35B in LRIP run 13, 8 F-35B in LRIP run 14 and 7 F-35B in LRIP run 15. This brings us to 42 in 2023. The next run brings us to the total of the first batch of aircraft, 48.
It is hoped that 138 F-35 aircraft will have been delivered by the 2030s.