WASHINGTON - The F 35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter operated by the US Marines has carried out its first ever combat air operations against Taliban targets in Afghanistan, Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a press release on Thursday.

“The Marine Corps F 35B, Lightning II, conducted its first combat strike in the US Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, September 27,” said the release, which was issued from CENTCOM Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

The F-35B aircraft in the operation was flown off the USS Essex amphibious assault ship, US CENTCOM Naval Forces commander Vice Admiral Scott Stearney said in the release.

“During this mission, the F35B  conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander,” CENTCOM said.

The F-35 is regularly described as the most expensive aircraft and military program in history with projections of its costs running to $1.5 trillion over a total 30-year period. It continues to be plagued by delays, cost overruns and failures of fundamental systems including ejector seats and its one cannon.

The F-35B is the world’s first supersonic short and vertical takeoff and landing (STOVL) aircraft and is operated by the Marine Corps. It is the first of the three F-35 variants that has been cleared as combat-ready.