F-35B Lightning aircraft are at RAF Akrotiri as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn.

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 F35 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, RN 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.

According to an RAF news release:

“The training exercise 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 later this year.

This exercise will be the first time a visit has been undertaken by any variant or nationality of F35 aircraft to Cyprus.”

Station Commander RAF Akrotiri, Group Captain Christopher Snaith, said

“It is a privilege to welcome 617 Squadron and the F35-B Lightning aircraft to RAF Akrotiri. This is the first overseas training deployment of the aircraft and marks another key milestone for the aircraft in UK service.

Akrotiri has been home for British Forces personnel for nearly 70 years; we are hugely grateful for the support and hospitality from the people of Cyprus and I know that all those involved in the F35 programme, both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, are delighted to be here. What is important now is to maximise the opportunities that being in Cyprus presents and ensure we learn the lessons from what I know will be an incredibly successful deployment.”

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Could tbe Cyprus arrangements for Akrotiri follow the same path as Garcia or is tenancy watertight?


To be honest I don’t see the recent UN noise over Diego Garcia going anywhere. Even though it’s technically our base the Americans are the ones who would be most affected by its loss and since when have they ever listened to what the UN thinks? And that was before Trump came along. I think the BIOT is safe for the foreseeable future.

Daniele Mandelli

Love your enthusiasm Cam. ??

Pete Boland

Brings back memories of being an Air Cadet in the late 1970s on ‘summer camp’ to RAF Akrotiri. I remember visiting a GCHQ listening/radar station on Mt Troodos and an airman pointing out to us a radar scope that was tracking aircraft activity deep into southern Russia…


I was not aware that any British military facilities were lost to TRNC during the intervention. Please can you advise more detail on that subject?

Michael Joseph

Take out the S-400 Systems in Syria! Come on lads you can do it!

Mark Franks

Akrotiri and the army bases are sovereign bases vis a vi British territory.


207(R) Sqn is supposed to be standing up on F35B early this summer. Is this plan still on schedule? Does anybody know when the next batch of aircraft will be delivered to Marham?


I can answer my own question with a date of July 1st. Will there be additional aircraft deliveries prior to that date though?

John Clark

I don’t think so Julian, deliveries are infrequent and sporadic for the foreseeable future, due to funding and USMC block buys. The advantage is that we get cheaper, more matured block 4 aircraft later on…. The Americans get cheap additional Carrier strike assets to base USMC units on in the meantime. This works well for both parties in my opinion and allows a fully worked up Carrier, ready for purley national assets ahead of what would have been possible without US input. The downside, don’t expect (unilateral) Carrier Strike any time soon….. It’s the first time in years we can… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Hope this helps Julian. “In November 2015, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that the UK will order the full original total of 138 F-35 aircraft to equip the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The aircraft will also be used by the Royal Air Force over time, and be one of the replacements for the Panavia Tornado. It was stated that at least 24 of the aircraft would be available by 2023 for use on board one of the navy’s aircraft carriers, thus leaving more time for testing and training before it becomes operational. It is expected that… Read more »


yes, I am aware of all of this. I believe we have 9 a/c at Marham, 3 evaluation a/c in CA and a further 5 production a/c already delivered to the RAF but sat in the US at Cherry Point/Beaufort. It is these a/c I am asking about – they should be coming to the UK so that 207 can form and possibly also to bolster 617 which only have 9 a/c. when will this happen?


Just to add if unknown for some, but of the 9 aircraft based in the UK, 6 aircraft are on this exercise, with 3 remaining in the UK and the rest currently Stateside.

I’m unsure when the next delivery will be, but as we have 17 aircraft, with 3 of that number remaining in the US on a permanent basis, the next 5 should be over here soon…ish.


thank you Lusty – you answered the question – but we just assume “soonish”

Nigel Collins

AESA buy the end of this year, more positive news! “The RAF plans to use the F-35B and Typhoon in concert, exploiting the synergies between them to counter evolving threats in the contested environments. To facilitate this, the UK plans to achieve MOD Main Gate investment approval for a new AESA radar for Typhoon in the latter half of 2019. This, the so-called Radar 2, will be embodied in 40 Tranche 3 Typhoons. The UK has taken delivery of 17 F-35Bs, nine of which are now operational with No. 617 Squadron at Marham; three are with No. 17 (Reserve) Test… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks for keeping track of this Nigel.

Nigel Collins

Not a problem Daniele!


The Radar 2 development has been the reason why the RAF Typhoons haven’t been fitted with the Captor-E AESA radar earlier. Euroradar (Leonardo Scotland) believed they could develop an even better version of the Captor-E with more capabilities. The Gripen-E/F has a derivative of the Captor-E including the mechanical gimbal, but with a smaller antenna, so it can fit in the aircraft’s nose. The Radar 2’s antenna has nearly twice the area as the Gripen’s. This will give it much better range and resolution. The existing Captor-M can easily detect a F16 sized target 160km away. The Captor-E surpasses this,… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Sounds very promising Davey B, I am a strong advocate for adding more Typhoons while we wait for the 6th gen Tempest. The two could work hand in hand with Typhoon being a suitable testbed for testing future technologies which will be fitted onboard Tempest.

Daniele Mandelli

In the early days of the cold war there were Fast Jet Squadrons there. Now days not feasible with only 8 FJ squadrons at present.

And there is a permanent squadron there…not a well known or exciting one mind, No 84.


With the continued volatility in the Middle East and the deployment of Typhoons to the area to work with allied nations, one could see the feasibility of standing up a permanent fast jet squadron there. If there’s an increase in numbers and funding, that would be all well and good,but for the moment, maybe a flight is all that is necessary.

Could argue for the standing up of a drone squadron there too I guess.

Daniele Mandelli

Especially as things stand as the UK Reaper force, while officially based at Waddington, can never actually land a Reaper there.


Which weapons are currently available to the UK f35b?

Have we purchased any gun pods at this point?

Nigel Collins

You can find some of the information you require via this link, Steve.


Which I read as pathway iv is the only wep available and so this is purely a PR stunt. This exercise could easily be done in the uk.

David E Flandry

Sure, any exercise could be done in the UK. Point is, its being done at a UK base near the Middle East. Its to emphasize Global Britain.


Global BritIan is a local PR thing to make it look like Brexit isn’t so bad. It means zero to anyone outside the UK. A sole frigate turning up in Australia or a unescorted assault ship (aka a token measure) won’t make far flung countries any more likely to trade with us.

I really hope this has nothing to do with the middle East. We don’t need a trade deal with the US that involves lowering our food standards and certainly don’t need it if it means going to war with Iran.


If this is implemented by the USAF and adopted by the RAF, 48 F35B s could become 196…