British and American F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters flew anti-ISIS strike missions from the U.K. Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) – a first for the U.K. in a decade, defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday.
The F-35s from the embarked Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters” flew combat operations in support of U.K. anti-ISIS effort Operation Shader and U.S. Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in a Tuesday statement. The “Wake Island Avengers” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 were also part of the strike missions, a service official confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday.
“The involvement of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her air wing in this campaign also sends a wider message. It demonstrates the speed and agility with which a U.K.-led Carrier Strike Group can inject fifth generation combat power into any operation, anywhere in the world, thereby offering the British government, and our allies, true military and political choice,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the U.K. Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement.
Neither the Marines nor the MoD specified the location of the missions or the targets that were struck. In a Tuesday statement, the Marines said the blended air wing started combat operations on June 18.
“U.S. Marine Corps aircraft supporting OIR from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier demonstrates how effectively interoperable our combined naval forces are,” said Marine Corps Col. Simon Doran, U.S. representative to the U.K. CSG.
Starting in 2019, RAF F-35Bs from Cyprus began anti-ISIS operations over Iraq and Syria, according to the BBC.
“The Lightning force is once again in action against Daesh, this time flying from an aircraft carrier at sea, which marks the Royal Navy’s return to maritime strike operations for the first time since the Libya campaign a decade ago,” air wing commander Royal Navy Capt. James Blackmore said in the Tuesday statement.
The combat mission for the U.K. marks the first carrier strike operation from a British carrier since 2011’s Operation Ellamy, Britain’s 10-ship contribution to the international military intervention in Libya. The operation is also the first time that U.S. fighters struck from a U.K. aircraft carrier since 1943, aboard HMS Victorious (R38) in World War II, according to the MoD.
The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group left U.K. for its deployment on May 22 with eight RAF F-35Bs and 10 Marine F-35s for a 28-week deployment through the Mediterranean Sea and the Indo-Pacific.
The escorts from the Royal Navy include Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring, and an unspecified Astute-class nuclear attack boat. The group also includes Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805) and U.S. Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68).