The United Kingdom’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier has launched Lockheed Martin F-35B combat aircraft against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 22 June.
An undisclosed number of UK Royal Air Force (RAF)/Royal Navy (RN) Lightning and US Marine Corps (USMC) Lightning II aircraft flew missions in support of Operation ‘Shader’ and Operation ‘Inherent Resolve’. The MoD noted to Janes that no weapons were employed, with the aircraft performing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) tasks.
“For the [Carrier Strike Group 2021 (CSG21)] task group, which has spent previous weeks in the Mediterranean working with NATO allies and partners, it marks a change of emphasis. From exercises and international engagements, the carrier strike group is now delivering its full might of naval and air power,” the MoD said.
News of the mission comes some weeks after the MoD first announced that the CSG21 F-35Bs would join the Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon and General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper aircraft that usually fly counter-Islamic State missions from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and an undisclosed location in the Middle East (widely reported to be Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait) respectively.
As the MoD said on 3 May, the F-35Bs would provide “tangible and impactful support to counter [Islamic State] operations in Iraq and Syria”.