RAF's new F35 jets fly operational missions for first time with sorties against Islamic State

24 June 2019, 22:47 | Updated: 25 June 2019, 00:20

The RAF's new F35 fighter jets have flown on operations for the first time, a significant milestone in their development. 

Alongside Typhoon aircraft, they took part in sorties over Iraq and Syria against Islamic State but didn't carry out any strikes.

The Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt described it as a "significant step into the future for the UK".

"The F-35s are the most advanced jets our country has ever possessed and will form the backbone of British air defence for decades to come."

The first missions were flown on Sunday, 16 June with 12 more sorties since then.

The aircraft have been based in Cyprus since late May for a training exercise.

"The pilots, crew and aircraft have exceeded all training objectives since deploying to Cyprus so it was only right that they made the next step on their journey," said the UK Air Commander for the Middle East, Air Commodore Justin Reuter.

"The UK has played a vital role in liberating swathes of territory once subjected to Daesh's cruel regime, and the deployment of our newest and most advanced jets signals our commitment to the enduring defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria."

Later in the year they will deploy on HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK's new aircraft carrier.

Ship and aircraft should be ready for operations together by 2021.

"For decades to come, this exciting new combination of aircraft carriers and F35B Lightnings will provide a potent, globally deployable carrier strike capability, a powerful conventional deterrent and the centrepiece of our country's expeditionary forces," said Admiral Tony Radakin, the new First Sea Lord.

The UK currently owns 17 F35b jets, which can land vertically and take off on short runways.

The British government has pledged to buy 138 over the lifetime of the programme.

Commenting on the news, the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Stephen Hillier said: "This first operational mission for the UK's F-35 Lightning confirms the impressive progress which we have made in introducing this formidable new capability into service.

"It is testament to the outstanding abilities of our dedicated and highly trained air and ground crew that 617 Squadron has achieved this important milestone so quickly and so effectively."