Tag Archives: U.S. Marine Corps

These U.S. Marine Corps VMAQ-2 EA-6B Jets Have Just Completed The Prowler’s Final Deployment Before Retirement

The final operational chapter of the Prowler career has just been written by the U.S. Marine Corps “Death Jesters” and their six EA-6Bs jets.

Marine Corps Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron-2 (VMAQ-2) “Death Jesters”, the last of four Marine Prowler squadrons, has just completed its final deployment in Qatar, with the last six EA-6B in the U.S. military inventory.

Four aircraft, using radio callsign “Trend 01-04” landed at Lajes, Azores, on their way back to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, from Al Udeid, Qatar, on Nov. 12, 2018. The remaining two aircraft would follow in a couple of days (they were left behind due to technical issues).

The first pair (“Trend 01-02”) was supported by “Blue 52”, an Air Force Reserve KC-135R operated by the 916 Aerospace Refuelling Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, that also landed at Lajes.

Interestingly, one of the aircraft, 163047/CY-05, sported “Agent 007” markings inside the split trailing edge air brakes as the following image shows:

EA-6B 163047/CY-05 with 007 markings landing at Lajes field.

The EA-6B was born out of military requirements during the Vietnam War. It entered service in 1971 and 170 aircraft were produced before the production was terminated in 1991. For more than four decades, the Prowler has been “at the forefront of military electronic warfare allowing high-profile air combat missions.”

162934/CY-01 about to land at Lajes field on its way back to CONUS after the EA-6B’s last deployment.

During the last deployment the aircraft have supported Operation Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan as well as Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria. The primary mission of the aircraft was to support ground-attack strikes by disrupting enemy electromagnetic activity and, as a secondary mission, to gather tactical electronic intelligence within a combat zone, and, if necessary, attacking enemy radar sites with HARM missiles.

Despite their age, the EA-6Bs have been among the most important assets in the air war against Daesh: they eavesdropped “enemy” radio signals and jammed those frequencies in order to prevent terrorists from talking one another on the radio or cell phone, or use portable transmitters to trigger IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).



Actually, rather than the obsolescence of the onboard EW (Electronic Warfare) sensors, the main issue that has affected the Prowler fleet what has been keeping the legacy aircraft in the air.

“It’s not an easy airplane to work on. Nowadays, components tell you they need to be replaced, skilled troubleshooting doesn’t exactly exist the way that it used to and working on this plane is very much a different skill,” Lt. Col. Andrew A. Rundle, VMAQ-2 commanding officer, said in a recent release.

A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler, assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, banks away after receiving in-flight fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 28th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron (EARS) during an aerial refueling mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq, June 28, 2018. The 28th EARS is assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group and supports various operations in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. In conjunction with partner forces, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve defeats ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and sets conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

“You could think you know what is wrong with it and you fix what you think is wrong only to find it had nothing to do with what was wrong and it didn’t help or fix anything,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Randall, VMAQ-2 maintenance control chief. “You could troubleshoot for days in the wrong direction, but because it is an old airplane there are lots of wires and things that don’t even go to things anymore and through updates and upgrades there are things that cause problems that you never would have thought. Changes that were made 10 or 15 years ago have surfaced and reared their head.”

Marines deployed with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 pose for a group photo on the ramp at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 16, 2018. Marines with VMAQ-2 are taking part in the final EA-6B Prowler deployment before the final six aircraft in the U.S. military inventory are retired. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jose Diaz/Released)

On the maintenance front, Randall acknowledged some challenges with those who have come to the EA-6B in recent years with the aircraft’s sunset on the horizon.

“Almost every air mission that people have heard about since the 1970s likely involved a Prowler in some way and we don’t talk about it,” said Randall. “I think that’s the cool thing we all know in the back of our heads. The public reads that bombing missions happened here or we got so and so or completed this mission and you read about the flashier airplanes such as the B-1s, the F-18s, the stealth fighters that took off from wherever, but you never read about the Prowler that had to be in the area days prior or had to be around the area to complete its mission to allow the bigger mission to happen.”

The U.S. Navy retired their Prowler fleet in 2015, shifting the EA (Electronic Attack) workload to the EA-18G Growler. The Death Jesters will retire the EA-6B Prowler in 2019, the second-to-last U.S. Prowler Squadron, the VMAQ-3 Moon Dogs, was deactivated last spring.

All images courtesy APS – Associação Portugal Spotters (Portuguese Spotters Association) unless otherwise stated.

 

Check Out This Video Of U.S. Marine F-35B Jets Refueling Over the Middle East.

A Look Back at the F-35Bs deployed to the Middle East on the 243rd Birthday of the USMC.

Today is the 243rd Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps. The Marines were born on November 10, 1775 as an elite maritime-capable combat force by the Second Continental Congress with the decree:

“That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines.”

In observance of this anniversary it’s worth watching this video of USMC F-35B Lightning IIs refueling from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 somewhere over the Middle East during the first U.S. combat deployment of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. We have already published shots taken during that very same sortie, highlighting the presence of the gun pod under the fuselage.


The video of the USMC F-35Bs was shot by USAF Staff Sgt. Rion Ehrman of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs on September 15, 2018.

Shooting video from a KC-135 Stratotanker of the 28th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, the USMC F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit take on fuel somewhere over the Middle East using the drogue system on the KC-135 boom.

Because of the position of the lift-fan on the F-35B Lightning II STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant the aircraft does not have the refueling receptacle on top of the fuselage as with the F-35A, so the Marines use the hose and drogue method. You can see in the video that sometimes it gets tricky staying on the drogue as an F-35B bobs up and down taking on fuel. Another F-35B is seen on the drogue with a significant amount of fuel vapor streaming into the air just above the right intake.

The USMC deployment was the first time the U.S. deployed F-35Bs to the Middle East as part of Essex Amphibious Ready Group or ARG. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is also the first combat-deployed MEU to operate the F-35B Lighting II. This is also the first-ever combat deployment of a supersonic STOVL aircraft in aviation history since the Israelis, who debuted the F-35A in combat in the Middle East, fly a conventional take-off and landing variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

On Sept. 27, 2018 U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters hit insurgent targets in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. The mission, flown by an undisclosed number of aircraft from USS Essex but, interestingly, at least two aircraft, modex CF-00 and CF-01, made a stopover in Kandahar Air Field after the air strike before returning to the aircraft carrier.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B taxi to the runway at KAF the morning after conducting the first air strike in Afghanistan.

The aircraft carried the external gun pod along with the two upper Luneburg lenses/radar reflectors.

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I have made an interesting and geeky discovery today analyzing the shots of the USMC F-35B deployed for the first time near the Horn of Africa (article at TheAviationist.com). Therefore, during normal peacetime activities, the F-35B uses radar reflectors (unless it has to remain stealthy – during the first days of a war): 3 reflectors (2 in the upper rear fuselage, 1 centerline in the lower rear fuselage – the one underneath the fuselage can be seen in the bottom image) as opposed to the F-35A (middle photo) that wears 4 ones (2 upper side and 2 lower side). However, when it carries the external GAU-22 gun pod, the F-35B carries only 2 upper side radar reflectors (you can only see one of these in the top image): most probably the external pod degrades the RCS so much no additional reflector is needed. #theaviationist #f35 #f35b #stealth #radarreflector

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On Sept. 28, a U.S. Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter crashed near Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, South Carolina on the U.S. East Coast. The pilot ejected from the aircraft. The incident led to a temporary stand down of the worldwide fleet, on Oct. 12, 2018 for safety inspections of their fuel flow systems.

Check Out This Awesome Sinister Looking MV-22 Osprey In Special Color Scheme At MCAS Miramar On Halloween

Take a look at the “Evil Eyes” MV-22 Osprey for VMM-163 at MCAS Miramar. Finished just in time for Halloween.

The photographs you can find in this post were taken on Oct. 31, 2018 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. They show an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft belonging to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 “Evil Eyes” in a new special color scheme prepared by Shayne Meder, aka Flygirlpainter, a retired Air Force master sergeant from Riverside, California, who’s painted with special liveries some 60 U.S. Navy Seahwaks, U.S. Air Force KC-135, C-17 and C-141 aircraft along with U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 and MV-22.

The VMM-163 special Osprey (00-8657) features artwork on the external sides of the vertical tails: the right one has a Grim Reaper with an “Evil Eyes” patch whereas the left one has a Grim Reaper with the “Ridge Runners” patch.

Right and left sides with the Ridge Runners and Evil Eyes patches. (All photographs courtesy of Flygirlpainter).

Indeed, formed as HMR(L)-163 in 1951 then HMM-163, the squadron got the nickname Ridge Runners” as a result of typhoon rescue and relief operations in the mountainous terrain surrounding Hagman, Japan. Still, it is also known as the “Evil Eyes”, a unit symbol that dates back to December 1965 whose story is explained as follows on the squadron’s official website:

“In December 1965, LtCol Charles A. House took the reigns of the squadron, newly relocated at MCAS Futema, Okinawa. With only one month separating HMM-163 from its return deployment to Viet Nam, LtCol House and his veteran pilots determined that a unit symbol was needed to build morale and espirit d’corps, especially for the newly assigned replacement personnel.

Capt Al Barbe, the Squadron Intelligence Officer and husband to a Thai bride, offered a suggestion. Because of Asian culture and beliefs, he proposed that eyes painted on the unit aircraft might have an unsettling affect upon the enemy, thus the concept of “The Eyes” on the front of HMM-163 aircraft was born.

On 1 January 1966, HMM-163 flew via C-130 to Phu Bai, Vietnam, relieved HMM-161, and took over their H-34 helicopters. Painting of what were then called “Genie Eyes” (after the “I Dream of Jeannie” TV show) began immediately.

By March 1966, HMM-163’s “Genie Eyes” were being called “Evil Eyes” by the ground units the squadron supported. The Squadron flew over 2,000 flight hours in ten days in support of the overrun Ashau Valley Special Forces Camp, in which 190 U.S. Army survivors were rescued from enemy capture. In Aug/Sept 1966, orders came from 1st MAW to eliminate white paint on Marine helicopters; so all white markings and lettering were either stricken or painted over in black. HMM-163 was aboard a carrier off the coast of Vietnam and used the excuse that they were not directly under Wing command at that time. The “Evil Eyes”, therefore, remained black and white.”



Along with the the tail art, the aircraft also sports two eyes on the nose section.

The “Evil Eyes” on the aircraft’s nose.

Noteworthy, the special painted MV-22B is one of those equipped with the Ku Ka antenna part of the Networking On-The-Move-Airborne Increment 2 (NOTM-A Inc 2) initiative launched in 2016 to provide an airborne en route mission planning and over-the-horizon/beyond-line-of-sight (OTH/BLOS) communication and collaboration capability.

Image credit: Flygirlpainter

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Connects To HIMARS For Rocket Shot In a “Direct Sensor-to-Shooter” Scenario

Using Datalink, an F-35B shared target data with an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). 5th Gen. aircraft increasingly used to shorten the “sensor-to-shooter” cycle.

According to Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, the U.S. Marine Corps have achieved a milestone when a target was destroyed by connecting an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a HiMARS rocket shot for the first time.

“We were able to connect the F-35 to a HIMARS, to a rocket shot … and we were able to target a particular conex box,” Rudder told audience members Friday at an aviation readiness discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, or CSIS, Marine Corps Times reported.

The integration occurred during Marines’ latest weapons and tactics course at Yuma, Arizona: the F-35 gathered the target location using its high-end onboard sensors and shared the coordinates of the target to the HIMARS system via datalink in a “sensor to shooter” scenario. The HIMARS unit then destroyed the target.

The HIMARS is a movable system that can be rapidly deployed by air, using a C-130 Hercules. It carries six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile on the U.S. Army’s new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) five-ton truck, and can launch the entire Multiple Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOM). In a typical scenario, a command and control post, a ship or an aircraft (in the latest test, an F-35B – the type that has just had its baptism of fire in Afghanistan) transmits the target data via a secure datalink to the HIMARS on-board launch computer. The computer then aims the launcher and provides prompt signals to the crew to arm and fire a pre-selected number of rounds. The launcher can aim at a target in just 16 seconds.

The Corps has been testing new ways to use its HIMARS lately. For instance, last fall, the Corps successfully fired and destroyed a target 70 km out on land from the deck of the amphibious transport dock Anchorage. Considered the threat posed to maritime traffic by cruise missiles fired by coastal batteries in the hands of terrorist groups and militias, the amphibious group’s ability suppress coastal defenses from long-range using artillery is important to allow Marines to come ashore.

The aim is clearly to shorten what is known as the sensor-to-shooter cycle – the amount of time it takes from when an enemy target is detected by a sensor – either human or electronic – and when it is attacked. Shortening the time is paramount in highly dynamic battlefield.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II’s assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018. 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 F-35B combines next-generation fighter characteristics of radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, fighter agility and advanced logistical support with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory, providing the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) significantly improved capability to approach missions from a position of strength. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

In September 2016, a live test fire demonstration involved the integration of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX 1), based in Edwards Air Force Base, with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. The test was aimed at assessing the ability to shoot down incoming cruise missiles.

The F-35B acted as an elevated sensor (to detect an over-the-horizon threat as envisaged for the F-22) that sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target. Indeed, increasingly, 5th generation aircraft are seen as tools to provide forward target identification for both defensive and offensive systems (such as strike missiles launched from surface warships or submerged submarines). Back in 2013, PACAF commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle described the ability of advanced aircraft, at the time the F-22, to provide forward targeting through its sensors for submarine based TLAMs (Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles).



In the following years, the stealthy F-22s, considered “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft”, saw their main role in the war on Daesh evolving into something called “kinetic situational awareness”: in Syria and Iraq, the Raptors escorted the strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness. To make it simple, during Operation Inherent Resolve, the 5th generation aircraft’s pilot leverages advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to collect valuable details about the enemy Order of Battle, then shares the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft, while escorting other manned or unmanned aircraft towards the targets. Something the F-35 will also have to do in the near future.

Top image: “artwork” made using USMC images

Details Emerge About First U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Combat Mission in History.

Successful Strike Honored Marine Pilot Killed in Combat in September 2012.

New details and photos have emerged from last week’s first-ever combat mission by a U.S. military F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The mission, flown by an undisclosed number of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant aircraft, took place in the early morning hours of Thursday, September 27, 2018 and struck insurgent targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit flew the strike mission.

According to a story published late Tuesday, October 2, 2018 in the Marine Corps Times by journalist Shawn Snow, “Later that afternoon, photos of the historic feat published to the Defense Department’s imagery website displayed the name of a [deceased] squadron commander on one of the F-35Bs, who was killed in an infamous attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in September 2012.”

Snow went on to write that, “Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s name appeared near the canopy of an F-35B prepping for the strike on the deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Essex. Often it’s a current pilot in the squadron whose name is on the plane.”



The USMC F-35B Lightning II shown in the photo from the Monday, September 27, 2018 strike in Afghanistan was named to honor the memory of USMC Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and his remarkable story of heroism while commanding the very same unit that flew this historic first U.S. F-35 strike.

On September 15, 2012 U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Chris “Otis” Raible was commanding Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) the “Wake Island Avengers” then operating from Afghanistan’s Camp Bastion.

Lt. Col. Raible was nearing the end of his combat deployment in Afghanistan. Just after 2200 local time Lt. Col Raible was returning from dinner after flying a combat mission in an AV-8B Harrier earlier that day. Fifteen Taliban insurgents wearing stolen U.S. uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion’s security perimeter and attacked U.S. Marine AV-8B Harriers parked inside the compound using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), machine guns and suicide vests.

In response after insuring the safety of his Marines Lt. Col. Raible, armed only with a sidearm, hurried to the area of the attack. Lt. Col. Raible determined the well-organized insurgent force had split into three groups: two tasked with destroying Marine AV-8B Harriers and the third group moving to kill U.S. Marines in their sleep.

Lt. Col. Raible ran 100-yards across open area under insurgent fire and rallied a group of aircraft maintenance personnel to mount a counter attack against the insurgents. Armed only with a handgun, Lt. Col. Raible’s swift, aggressive action temporarily stopped the Taliban insurgent attack and enabled Marines to organize an effective counterattack that lasted over four hours. The counterattack by Marines eventually neutralized the infiltrating insurgents after they had destroyed six AV-8B Harriers. Unfortunately, Lt. Col. Chris Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell were killed during the counter-offensive. It was also the greatest loss of U.S. Marine aircraft since the Vietnam War.

A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier sits on the flight line at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan Sept. 26, 2012. The Harrier was one of six relocated to Camp Bastion to increase the overall readiness level of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211 and is painted in memory of Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, who were killed during an attack on Camp Bastion Sept. 14, 2012.

One Marine wounded during the attack later told a reporter about Lt. Col. Raible’s gallantry, “My commanding officer never feared death and would want us to keep fighting. That’s what he would do.”

Lt. Col Chris “Otis” Raible’s name painted on one of the F-35B strike force aircraft in last week’s historic raid served to avenge his death and memorialize his heroism.

USMC Sgt. Bradley Atwell and Lt. Col. Chris Raible were both killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012. (Photos: U.S. Navy)

Finally, some observers of last Monday’s first U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter combat mission have speculated about the reasons for using USMC F-35B Lighting IIs. The aircraft launched from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex in the Arabian Sea and flew a significant distance to strike their targets. But this has been pretty common: U.S. Navy aircraft launching from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf or in the Indian Ocean off Pakistan have supported Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan for decades now.

At least two aircraft, modex CF-00 and CF-01 made a stopover in Kandahar Air Field after the air strike before returning to the aircraft carrier.

The two F-35B taxiing at KAF the day after the type’s first ever air strike in Afghanistan. There’s a blimp (most probably a Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System – JLENS) in the background.

The aircraft carried the external gun pod along with the two upper Luneburg lenses/radar reflectors.

Dealing with the radar reflectors, it’s pretty obvious that they were carried because there is no need to hide from any Taliban radars over Afghanistan.

Our own Editor David Cenciotti has observed that,  during normal peacetime activities, the F-35B uses two radar reflectors in the upper rear fuselage and one centerline in the lower rear fuselage. However, when it carries the external GAU-22 gun pod, the aircraft sports only two upper side radar reflectors. We have not found any image showing the aircraft with the external gun pod and without the Luneburg lenses.

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I have made an interesting and geeky discovery today analyzing the shots of the USMC F-35B deployed for the first time near the Horn of Africa (article at TheAviationist.com). Therefore, during normal peacetime activities, the F-35B uses radar reflectors (unless it has to remain stealthy – during the first days of a war): 3 reflectors (2 in the upper rear fuselage, 1 centerline in the lower rear fuselage – the one underneath the fuselage can be seen in the bottom image) as opposed to the F-35A (middle photo) that wears 4 ones (2 upper side and 2 lower side). However, when it carries the external GAU-22 gun pod, the F-35B carries only 2 upper side radar reflectors (you can only see one of these in the top image): most probably the external pod degrades the RCS so much no additional reflector is needed. #theaviationist #f35 #f35b #stealth #radarreflector

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Anyway, capabilities unique to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter include greatly enhanced situational awareness and information sharing through the aircraft’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL). The MADL allows sensors on the aircraft to relay real-time intelligence to other assets including aircraft and ground forces, enabling them to work in the same informational space. While some version of this capability has been available with previous targeting pods and sensors, it was not designed-in and has not approached the intelligence gathering and sharing capability of the F-35s sensor and communications suite.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B taxi to the runway at KAF the morning after conducting the first air strike in Afghanistan.

In the dynamic insurgent conflict in Afghanistan very small targets are difficult to locate, move quickly and disappear easily. The F-35’s enhanced sensors and ability to immediately share dynamic intelligence across a wide spectrum in all conditions must be key to maintaining situational awareness and providing accurate targeting.

Seen from behind, the two VMFA-211 F-35B jets taxiing at KAF.

It’s possible the F-35Bs were tasked with this mission in Afghanistan, because they could share intelligence data in real-time with ground forces in both directions and “see” the targets better than any previous strike aircraft rather than because they are stealth (indeed, the presence of the radar reflectors shows they were exploiting Low Observability).

Top image: One of the USMC F-35Bs from the USS Essex carried the name of USMC Lt. Col. Christopher Raible who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012. (Photo: U.S. Navy)