An undisclosed number of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II STOVL aircraft belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211), assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, launched the first-ever combat mission by a U.S. military F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter last year.
The long-range strikes that struck insurgent targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, were launched from the U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf.
Interestingly, after returning to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, from their combat tour in the Middle East, some F-35Bs, including the famous example 169415/CF-00, of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) “Wake Island Avengers”, also known today as the “Bastion Defenders”, were spotted sporting new bomb markings. The new markings show that the Marines Lightnings have seen more combat during their deployment.
The bomb markings have been applied to the aircraft’s front landing gear door and seem to show two different types of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions): the GBU-12 500-lb LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) on the top row, and GBU-32 JDAMs (bottom row).
The new markings were pretty evident on F-35Bs that took part in the MCAS Miramar air show.
Here's a recent pic of an F-35 deployed in the Middle East. Look at the landing gear door by the front wheel. Seems airstrikes have kept this one has been very busy over there. pic.twitter.com/xYpuAxWLUw
— DLAMN (@DLAMNscw) November 6, 2019
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, stealth, fifth-generation, multirole combat aircraft, designed for ground-attack and air-superiority missions. It is built by Lockheed Martin and many subcontractors, including Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, and BAE Systems.
The F-35 has three main models: the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A (CTOL), the short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B (STOVL), and the catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery, carrier-based F-35C (CATOBAR).
The F-35 descends from the Lockheed Martin X-35, the design that was awarded the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program over the competing Boeing X-32. The official Lightning II name has proven deeply unpopular and USAF pilots have nicknamed it Panther, instead.