F-35B aircraft from 617 Squadron flew from their base at Marham to spend six weeks at RAF Akrotiri as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn, say the RAF.

RAF Marham Station Commander, Group Captain Townsend said:

“It’s just over 76 years since 617 Squadron formed to conduct ground-breaking operations, they are once again called upon to take a capability forwards for the first time. The exercise in Akrotiri will prove our ability to operate F-35 away from RAF Marham and allow us to learn the lessons of operating the air system whilst on deployment.

Today’s departure reflects a tremendously collegiate effort from the RAF, Royal Navy and industrial partners who are now focused on ensuring the deployment is as successful as the preparation phase.”

The Lightning Force is jointly manned by both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.

“This training exercise will allow personnel from both services to gain vital experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment.”

The exercise, say the RAF, will also examine all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew that comes with this impressive aircraft, whilst also enhancing its preparedness for its first operational carrier deployment.

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Helions
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Helions

First deployment for these new aircraft, probably the last for these old warriors…

My best to both sets.

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-dday-75th-anniversary-squadron-trip-oxford-20190518-k535nyev55edna3rjgjhrzt6wy-story.html

Cheers!

Helions
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Helions
Mike Saul
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Mike Saul

The evolution of the F35 continues in UK service.

Yet some idiots still say we haven’t got any in service

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

But not enough and probably never will. Four squadrons is not enough to replace both tornado and harrier.

Andy
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Andy

Very true , it is very likely that the treasury will only fund 48 F35B in total and switch to the cheaper F35A .
What people fail to realise is that the UK F35B have to be navalised , resistant to saltwater and sea conditions adding to the running costs.
The USMC are struggling to have enough F35B available for active duty and the air frame is only good for 2000 hours instead of the 8000 for the F35B.
The F35 is a classic jack of all trades master of none .

Fat Dave
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Fat Dave

F-35A is cheaper and more capable. Right decision would be to fund the A model

DaveyB
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DaveyB

Currently, having F35As for the remaining part of the contract will be at the expense of providing a full compliment of F35Bs for the carrier. You have to remember, regardless of the aircraft type (in military service) at least a third to a half of them will be off-line due to maintenance requirements. Depending on the level of maintenance this could be anything from a week to six months. Therefore, the planners must arrange the aircraft around maintenance requirements, for instance there’s no point of embarking an aircraft on a carrier if in a weeks time it needs to do… Read more »

Mr Bell
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Mr Bell

Wrong Fat Dave.
We need to think about resilience and survivability. The runway and launch sites for the A can be targeted and destroyed. Dispersal would reduce the impact by the B variant is the ultimate guarantee of maintaining sorties and fighting power in the face of a concentrated air campaign against the RAF.
The B variant also needs to be procured in numbers no less than 96 frontline aircraft. Enough for both QEs and a small operational force for the RAF. So 48 now and a follow on order at the next SDSR for another 48.

Alan Reid
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Alan Reid

Mr Bell, True – “the runway and launch sites for the A can be targeted and destroyed”. But you’re not taking into account that the QE class can also be targeted and destroyed by SSNs, or air-launched supersonic anti-ship missiles. Historically, the Royal Navy has never been completely successful at protecting its carriers. Over-stretch – with too few escorts, is not a new phenomenon. We need balanced forces, and I fear investing too much treasure in an aircraft with comparative performance limitations, or putting them on a vulnerable launch platform is misguided – particularly as our combat air-operations will still… Read more »

Topboy
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Topboy

Couldn’t agree more. We need the range and payload of the F35a for the RAF. Still think we need enough F35b for BOTH carriers.
Treasury needs to dig deep!
We’ve lost Harrier and Tornado!

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Hmm never thought of that extra cost. To be fair I think the B will make a great aircraft long in to the future. But ideally id like to see the navy have all four B squadrons with the airforce getting three A squadrons. But the money would never allow this.

Chris H
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Chris H

Why on earth are people still peddling the ‘we must buy F-35A because its cheaper’ stuff? So can anyone tell me how an F-35A is of any use on a carrier? Or how can it land in a football stadium as the Harriers did in Gulf War I. The F-35 in any shape does not replace the Tornado. The upgraded Typhoon does all the Tornado did and much more. F-35Bs are integrating with Typhoon for non carrier or joint carrier ops and they make one hell of an asset. So please someone: Why the F-35A given its yet another airframe… Read more »

Trevor
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Trevor

By all means read a few bigotted click bait news reports but it’s not going to be 2000 hrs it will be 8000. By all means peddle your own prejudice… it’s common not least on this blog. Because of “concurrency” a “few” early model F35s will be modernised to meet 8000hrs LM have publically stated they have done full scale durability tests up to 16000hrs for the F35B. Early model F35s will be modified and planes delivered currently meet 8000hrs By all means let you and all your other prejudicial friends witter and twitter away pretending that you know what… Read more »

Andy
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Andy

So the Inspector General report to the Pentagon in Oct 2018 is wrong ?
Fact LM has admitted that it is struggling to find a way to get the F35B airframe lifespan above 2000 hours , fact LM cannot maintain the logistics chain for the F35B all this is in the Inspector general report.

Trevor
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Trevor

LM have completed 16000 hr durability tests and F35Bs currently produced meet 8000 hrs. LM have said so in public statement. See Popular Mechanics and probably elsewhere. As is well known there have been many “concurrency” issues. And they are being overcome. And as is well known, it is a whole different story. The early models received modifications to meet 8000 hrs. That is LMs statement. It’s out there in black and white. What can be more clear. There may have been theoretical suggestions at the time about original tests but revisions have repaired them. The real plane in the… Read more »

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

I believe this to be a fairly accurate indication as to the lifespan of the F35B airframe.

“DOT&E delivers another scathing report on F-35 progress”
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/dote-delivers-another-scathing-report-on-f-35-progr-455483/

Trevor
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Trevor

it’s their job to issue scathing reports about progress. Without it they are out of a job. The plane is built and lasts for 8000hrs. LM have statements and have competed 16000hrs testing

Andy
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Andy

Trevor go and read the inspector general report submitted to the Pentagon in 2018 . It is all there in black and white. The F35B is a dog , the F35A according to the Israeli who have used them in combat works well unlike the USMC F35B who have been used in Afghanistan and failed to destroy the target and whose sorties rate was appalling due to lack of parts and the logistics software constantly crashing. We got hung up on the 5th generation concept and committed ourselves to something we cannot afford. Better cats and traps and the latest… Read more »

Trevor
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Trevor

you are changing tack onto another subject. The life of the planes are as currently built 8000 hrs.

Andy
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Andy

And you either cant read or fail to understand that the F35B is a dogs breakfast of a plane.
The Inspector general report states that LM has missed all targets for the F35B airframe and logistical support.
USMC squadrons struggle to get 40% operational status.

Not going to argue with a person who is to blind to see what is written by independent experts .

Trevor
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Trevor

And so what. It will make its targets… LM says the airframe IS suitable for 8000hrs. Go sue them if you want if they are telling lies. Its completed 16000 hrs of testing. So blindly parroting 2000 is just ignorant. Logistical support is not the plane it’s the supply chain and this is, as reports point out, is being corrected. You can sit there and wave your paper around as much as you and all the others, who are just prejudiced, want… but the issues that come up are rectified. Let’s hope our own industry has the same “can do… Read more »

Andy
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Andy

FFS just go and read the Inspector General report, if you cant read or understand big words ask for the audio copy for the blind.

Trevor
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Trevor

You just FFS yourself.

The plane has evolved from earlier models and LM clearly state it will last 8000hrs. The 2000 figure is just half baked and scare stories. They are developing the supply and maintenance chain. What auditors say might happen in the future is one thing… what happens in the real world is an other.

As to whether the plane should have developed via the “concurrency” process is perhaps a moot point. I have no idea. But that is the way it is.

Andy
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Andy

Lol lol , you are truly delusional, nurse he has escaped again. Read the Inspector general report of Oct 2018 , compiled by experts . You have now admitted that the airframe is only good for 2000 hrs and the logistical support is appalling. LM has been promising to address the logistics for the last 5 years and still it has not improved. They still can’t get the F35B airframe to last more than 2, 100 hours , the problem lies in the stresses the lift engine puts on the cross member support for the wings . If you don’t… Read more »

Trevor
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Trevor

You are really thick. I am not admitting that the plane lasts 2000 hours as you claim I am saying. Early planes were said to last 2000. That’s what i said. Don’t invent what i said. What i did also say, and this is all I am saying, is… LM stated publicly in a response to Popular Engineering article – and hence the entire world – that it has completed 16000 hrs testing and planes currently built are designed to last 8000. The fact that you cannot read what I wrote speaks volumes and are only intent on peddling your… Read more »

Andy
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Andy

You are a grade one idiot go and read the Inspector General report filed in 2018 .

Or are you just to stupid to actually read and understand?

Trevor you are a bully and a racist homophobic bigot.

Trevor
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Trevor

You are crass. Beyond a joke.

Andy
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Andy

Go back under your rock troll

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Andy#
Where has Trevor mention any thing about race on this post??
You seem to resort to calling other posters racist and other insults if people don’t agree to your viewpoint!

Steven
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Steven

Not enough for what ? Who do you think we are going to war with ?

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

I think not enough to bring back a proper carrier capacity and maintain current raf strength and tempo of operations. Also in 2009 i doubt anyone would have imagined we would be fighting an air war in Libya, Iraq and Syrian within a decade time frame.

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Also if your not expecting a war lets juet get rid of the raf altogether.

Keithdwat
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Keithdwat

Keeping Akrotiri has to be one of the best decisions a recent government has made in defence for a long time!
The amount of value UK and allies has gotten out of it has been immense. Too bad similar arrangements weren’t made with other overseas bases! Especially now we are finally undoing the mistake that was the pullout from east of Suez it would of been great to have kept a large presence out east instead of having to potentially rebuild now!

Reaper
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Reaper

Swarming with Russians though. They will be put in force in the next few weeks

JohnHartley
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JohnHartley

I wish the UK still had Gan.

Keithdwat
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Keithdwat

Well we have access to Diego Garcia now but yes I know what you mean! A full British airbase in the Indian Ocean!

LongTime
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LongTime

Keith
Last I checked we still ‘own’ Diego Garcia and the yanks leaded the use of it?

Chris H
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Chris H

@Longtime – Its the same mistake people make over Ascension. They think its a Yank air base and we just drop by …

keithdwat
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keithdwat

Well yes I know we own Diego Garcia, but it is still primarily a US base, we of course have access and overall control!

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

We have access but I’m not sure on overall control. Officially maybe. In reality? I doubt it. A Naval Party is all we have there as far as I’m aware. It is very much a US set up.

RAF Ascension is different, there are British assets there and other infrastructure on the Island, like at Two Boats.

LongTime
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LongTime

I was under the impression that we had ‘control’ of both Islands/bases and the US had operational/day-day command.

ajsw6
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ajsw6

Since in flight refuelling of F35As by RAF aircraft is bit of a problem,why is the F35A even being talked about?

AndyB
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AndyB

Don’t introduce logic and reality into the discussion, the pro-RAF lobby on this site will throw a hissy fit…..

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

I don’t think there is a “pro RAF Lobby” as such, more of a pro armed forces lobby, certainly myself. Reading the regular suggestions by posters that the RAF should be disbanded on this and other websites, I find the idea of disbanding offensive, pointless, and quite ridiculous. So it is more an “anti RAF” lobby not a “pro” one, which implies bias for that service, which is not so, just a logical perspective of what they can contribute, like all services. Like the constant references to when exactly was the last time the RAF shot a plane down, being… Read more »

AndyB
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AndyB

Yes completely agree with all your points, well made Sir. But the facts speak for themselves and they do not show the RAF in a very positive light. That there will always be a level of inter-service rivalry – which is no bad thing, but joint forces have been created – which are really no such thing. The RAF signed off on the F35B and the carriers clearly with no intention of seeing it through, they then had the opportunity of influencing a potential 35C option, which was then taken out of its hands, due to the cost increases for… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Hi Andy. I have two responses. I disagree with your first paragraph on the RAF and their dastardly plans for the F35B. I see now grand RAF conspiracy here. Joint Forces have been created, most under Joint Forces Command, and they are just that – joint! With tri service personnel and a rotating lead. As for the rest of your post, I agree with most of it and certainly favour the emphasis on Expeditionary forces – the RN and the RAF over the Army. The army is woefully short of Artillery and other supporting assets, from Signals to Engineers and… Read more »

Andy
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Andy

We could always do what a mid level civil servant suggested during a discussion about funding.
He suggested merging the army,navy,airforce into something similar to the USMC , the response he was asked to leave the room and a cple weeks later was transferred to the DoE .
A bold idea .

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

What would that achieve though?

I read here and elsewhere commentators suggesting the Canadian Defence Force idea has not been successful.

Andy
Guest
Andy

It was a tongue in cheek comment .

I think is very telling that the civil servant who made the comment was transferred to the department of the environment.

My understanding of the CDF is the back office functions like payroll and pension are a total cluster f..k due to all the different pay grades and allowances .

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Gotcha.

Herodotus
Guest

Trevor and Andy having a real go at each other reminds me of past Brexit debates. I bet you’ve gone all misty eyed Daniele!

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

I followed it with interest, and to be honest I’m now totally confused over A or B having so and so flight hours in the airframe, and why this 5th Gen aircraft we are investing in is a “dogs breakfast” !

Herodotus
Guest

Hmmm does seem a little ‘overblown’. The problem is easily answered by giving the RAF and RN what they want. The RN will have to stick with the B now that cats and traps are no longer an option. The A version would clearly be the best option for the RAF in terms of range and internal payload. I’ve never been a real fan of the shared aircraft option. Give the RN and RAF what they need, a mixed buy of 180 A and B versions would cover it. Mind you, I also believe that the Army should be operating… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

All seems sensible.

I think that would entail a major increase in the budget as I personally think it would be a miracle if we get 90 let alone the projected 138. Like in politics everything is compromise, never fully satisfying anyone.

As for the Support Helicopter force, that is another can of worms to be opened later…I’m just happy we at least are relatively well provided for in that department, regardless of who operates them!

Nigel Collins
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Nigel Collins

A really interesting piece on the vulnerability of the F35.
When will we be installing the AESA radars onboard our Typhoons? My understanding is, they are still testing at present.
https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/aviation/a20884291/f-35-israel-middle-east-russian-weapons/

DaveyB
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DaveyB

As I’ve mentioned before, until the F35 is tested for real against these systems, much of the vulnerability is hyperbole. We know the frequencies that S200, 300 and 400 and systems like the Pantsir uses. It is easy to detect as these systems use the older passive electronically scanned arrays (PESA). Because these radars operate “generally” on a single frequency they are not frequency agile as an active electronically scanned array (AESA). This makes it much easier to jam or spoof. The S200, 300 and 400 use semi-active homing and command guidance to guide the missile towards the target. This… Read more »

Reg Vernon
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Reg Vernon

The timing of this move at the same time that the USA is ramping up pressure on Iran is an interesting coincidence.

R Cummings
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R Cummings

The F-35B is too heavy, has a slow rate of climb, short range, small payload and is 30%+ more expensive than the A. It may be OK-ish for the carrier on board naval air role. But it is not at all the aircraft for the RAF long-range interdiction job. It was pretty clearly a mistake to try to get three aircraft types with very different roles and requirements out of one airframe and has just led to 3 tac air models, none of which looks to be exceptional in their primary role. As to the B versus A for RN-RAF,… Read more »

Meirion X
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Meirion X

The F-35A is not a true successor to the Tornado, it is because the MoD had No plan to Integrate Storm Shadow with this type of aircraft. It is the Trenche 2/3 Typhoons that Storm Shadow has been integrated with.

Also procuring more F-35s then the 138 commited to,
would drain the Tempest program of developement funding. Tempest program is even more crucial to the future of the British aerospace industry.
There is No guarantee that the defence budget will be increased significantly at this stage, if so any increases will be absorbed by other completing
defence priorities.