For the first time ever,U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs Joint Strike Fighters are on an operational deployment in the Gulf of Aden, bringing them the closest they’ve ever been to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. The stealthy jets and their pilots set to join thousands of other U.S. Navy sailors and Marines for a two-week training exercise while they’re in the region, but there’s still no indication they are headed for actual combat, at least not yet.
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which includes the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), and the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore, has been in the area since earlier in September 2018. T
he ships are carrying elements of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which includes the detachment of six F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron Two One One (VMFA-211).