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US F-35 fighter jet poised for combat debut

The US Marine Corps' stealth F-35B Lightning fighter jet could fly its first combat mission within days, acc...

Posted: Sep 26, 2018 11:49 AM
Updated: Sep 26, 2018 11:49 AM

The US Marine Corps' stealth F-35B Lightning fighter jet could fly its first combat mission within days, according to several US defense officials, who told CNN that the fifth-generation aircraft are currently aboard the USS Essex amphibious assault ship and should soon be in a position to conduct airstrikes over Afghanistan.

The USS Essex has already sailed from the Gulf of Aden into the North Arabian Sea and is expected to move into the Persian Gulf in coming days, one official said.

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F-35 pilots have been conducting intelligence and surveillance missions in Somalia while on standby to conduct air support for US troops on the ground there if needed.

While available for support, the advanced fighter jet was not used in an airstrike over Somalia on Saturday that killed 18 militants after US and local forces came under attack.

In May, Israel Defense Forces said they were using their version of the F-35 in operational missions, striking at least two unspecified targets in the region.

That announcement marked the first time that the F-35 had been used in an actual combat situation -- a significant moment given the program's checkered past.

The F-35 fighter jet is touted as the future of military aviation; a lethal and versatile aircraft that combines stealth capabilities, supersonic speed, extreme agility and state-of-the-art sensor fusion technology, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane's primary contractor.

The F-35B is one of three variants of the F-35 aircraft and the only one with the ability to land vertically like a helicopter. It can also takeoff in a much shorter space than other fighter jets, which is why it can operate off the Essex, a warship only half the size of the 100,000-ton aircraft carriers in the US fleet.

However, the aircraft, which is the most expensive weapons system in history, has also drawn sharp criticism in recent years after facing a long list of setbacks -- including problems with software, engines and weapon systems.

And critics have continued to express skepticism about the F-35's combat capability despite reassurances by US military leaders who say the kinks are being worked out.

The US Marine Corps declared it's first squadron of F-35s ready for deployment in July 2015. The Air Force said its version of the aircraft was combat ready in August 2016.

The Marine Corps accomplished a significant milestone last year by deploying its variant to Japan -- the aircraft's first permanent overseas deployment.

The F-35 has been a favorite of President Donald Trump who has lauded the aircraft several times for being 'invisible." The aircraft has reduced capability to be seen by adversary radars but is not invisible.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the US Marine Corps was the first military service to declare their F-35s combat ready.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848137

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164052005
Mobile743681384
Madison53497738
Shelby38435371
Baldwin38195589
Tuscaloosa36152644
Montgomery34562782
Lee25655264
Calhoun22630520
Morgan22530411
Etowah20069520
Marshall18846318
Houston17777426
St. Clair16958359
Limestone16195220
Cullman16157306
Elmore15940295
Lauderdale15069307
Talladega14260302
DeKalb13083271
Walker12168380
Blount10779193
Autauga10560157
Jackson10214196
Coffee9435192
Colbert9366210
Dale9044192
Tallapoosa7285202
Russell710065
Chilton7090170
Covington6969197
Escambia6967144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5801142
Marion5437132
Dallas5302210
Pike5129109
Clarke485786
Lawrence4850130
Winston4793110
Geneva4655136
Bibb435795
Barbour370680
Butler3444101
Marengo342993
Monroe338366
Randolph337867
Pickens334890
Fayette331785
Henry321166
Cherokee320364
Hale319189
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252969
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141840
Sumter139841
Greene130545
Choctaw94428
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