Two F-35 fighter jets onboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier have reportedly carried out missions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
The strike mission, the first from a Royal Navy vessel since the operations against Libya in 2011, was carried out on the morning of 20th June.
According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the last time British and American fighter aircraft were launched from a foreign aircraft carrier on combat missions was in 1943 during World War II when they flew from HMS Victorious in the South Pacific conflict.
British and American F-35B Lightning jets took off in the eastern Mediterranean to take part in missions over Iraq during the vessel’s first operational cruise as part of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21).
Official confirmation of the missions came from the Royal Navy, however other sources reported that the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the air wing started flight missions against ISIS on 18th June.
Eight F-35Bs on the carrier are from the RAF’s No 617 Squadron, also known as the ‘Dambusters’, while another 10 are from the US Marines Corps’ Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, but currently under UK command.
The new aircraft carrier is also home to 250 US Marines as part of the 1,700-man crew.
With regards to the CSG21, the Royal Navy has also supplied the Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond and HMS Defender, the Type 23 class frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, the replenishment tanker RFA Tidespring, the fleet tanker RFA Fort Victoria, and an undisclosed nuclear submarine, according to War Zone.
They are a accompanied by the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “At the moment, we’re taking on the lion’s share of that operation over Iraq, which is a fantastic.”
The statement was taken by some to suggest that Britain is bearing the brunt of missions against ISIS in Iraq while the US focuses on withdrawing from Afghanistan.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the F-35B mission on Sunday saw two jets battling ISIS while another two took flight to investigate Russian aircraft.
Moorhouse said: “We’re rubbing up against Russian activity, not in… a dangerous or aggressive manner, but you’ve just got other people out here playing in what is a fixed piece of water and airspace.”
Captain James Blackmore, commander of the Carrier Air Wing, said: “It’s that cat-and-mouse posturing, it’s what we expect in this region of the world. And as you can imagine, it’s the first time for F-35s into the eastern Mediterranean, so of course Russia wants to look at what they’re like, they want to look at what our carriers are like.”