On the 27th of September 2018, a United States Marines Corps F-35B was used against a Taliban target in Afghanistan, the first combat operation the type has been involved in.
The F-35B took off from the USS Essex amphibious assault ship in the Arabian Sea.
The US Marines confirmed the strike in a statement: “During this mission the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander.”
The US Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015. The us Air Force followed by declaring initial operational capability for the F-35A 2016, while the US Navy plans to declare IOC on the F-35C in February 2019. For the UK, IOC will be this year from land and 2020 from sea.
The F-35 programme has gone through serious teething problems, problems also experienced by the majority of complex aircraft flying today such as the F-15, Typhoon or any other modern combat jet.
The biggest issue for the project continues to be the fact it is the most expensive military weapons system in history owing to the sheer scope of the programme but that being said, aircraft costs are now coming down and will soon be similar to the cost of many aircraft it’s replacing.
Today the programme is maturing rapidly, right now much of the activity around the jet is dealing with software bugs and testing to validate the software, with most of the physical testing being to do with weapons integration and the gradual scaling up of capabilities that comes with each new software block.