A F-35B Lightning II launches from the USS Essex. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg

The Navy released a stunning photo Thursday of a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II launching from the San Diego-based USS Essex in the Arabian Sea.

The photo shows the jet’s lift fan intake open and massive Pratt & Whitney engine swiveled down as the stealth fighter achieves a near vertical takeoff.

The aircraft is attached to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 based in Yuma, AZ, and assigned to the Essex. The amphibious assault ship left San Diego in July with supporting vessels.

During the deployment, the F-35B saw combat for the first time, conducting a ground-attack strike in Afghanistan.

The Marines’ version of the joint strike fighter can fly at 1.6 times the speed of sound and has a combat range of more than 900 nautical miles. It is the first short take-off and vertical landing aircraft capable of supersonic flight.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.