Not the most accurate source.
F-35Bs flew more than 100 combat sorties against the Taliban and ISIS while deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, said Lt. Col. Kyle Shoop, commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211.
"We overall supported more than 50 days of combat flying for over 1,200 flight hours," Shoop told Task & Purpose. "We supported both Operation Freedom's Sentinel up in the Afghanistan region as well as Operation Inherent Resolve over Syria/Iraq. We employed ordnance in both theaters on numerous days," Shoop said. "Every single one of the pilots employed ordnance in theater. So, we were very busy."
The Essex quietly left San Diego in July along with the F-35B squadron and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. The F-35B got its first taste of combat in September against a Taliban weapons cache in Afghanistan.
The aircraft that flew the mission had two names inscribed on it, Shoop said: Medal of Honor recipient Capt.Henry Talmage "Hammering Hank" Elrod and Lt .Col. Christopher "Otis" Raible , the squadron's former commander, who was killed in 2012 while repelling a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion while armed only with a pistol.
During its deployment, the F-35B squadron flew close air support missions over both Afghanistan and Syria, Shoop said. In Syria, the aircraft also helped assess the damage done by coalition airstrikes in bad weather because the F-35's radar is far better than the F/A-18 Hornets' sensors.
Neither Syrian or Russian air defenses attempted to engage the F-35Bs during the missions against ISIS, he said.
"We would see Russian airplanes airborne as well as Syrian, but everyone maintained their lines of de-confliction that were set up prior," Shoop said.
Overall, the F-35 exceeded expectations during its first deployment, Shoop said. The squadron was able to keep 75 percent of its aircraft operational at all times, allowing it to "fly pretty much at will."