(THE DRIVE) – The British Royal Navy’s flagship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, has launched its first combat missions, as part of the international coalition fighting ISIS in the Middle East. British and American F-35B Lightning stealth jets operating from its deck in the eastern Mediterranean have flown operational sorties over Iraq during the warship’s first operational cruise as part of Carrier Strike Group 21, or CSG21.
Official confirmation of the F-35B combat sorties came from the Royal Navy today, although some sources reported that HMS Queen Elizabeth and its embarked air wing actually began flying missions against ISIS in Iraq on June 18, a date that’s also reflected in official Royal Navy imagery releases. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph stated that the jets first went into combat from the carrier last Sunday, June 20. So far, the U.K. Ministry of Defense has not disclosed if any weapons were employed by the jets, although unnamed defense officials confirmed to USNI News today that airstrikes had been flown.
Either way, this is the first time that a Royal Navy warship embarking fixed-wing aircraft has taken part in combat operations since the much smaller Invincible class carrier HMS Illustrious took part in the U.K. response to the crisis in Sierra Leone in 2000. The last time that fixed-wing jets from a British carrier actually struck enemy targets was during the crisis in the Balkans in the mid-1990s when Sea Harriers were involved.
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