The pilot destined to command the F-35B Lightning Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) explained the new aircraft and the training of those who will fly and engineer it in a press release.

Wing Commander Scott Williams will become Officer Commanding 207 Squadron when it reforms in the summer of 2019. He is currently the UK’s Senior National Representative at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the South Carolina base where more than 150 RAF and Royal Navy personnel are learning to fly, fight and engineer the F-35B. On the 13th of December last year, he also became the latest pilot to fly the Lightning says the release from the Royal Air Force.

“My first flight in the F-35B was incredible and certainly exceeded expectations. On take-off, the responsiveness and power of the engine were extremely impressive and the jet accelerated rapidly without afterburner. Once airborne, I was immediately struck by how smooth and agile the aircraft was to fly, and how seamlessly its sensors and mission systems gave me the information I needed – a real testament to the aircraft’s design. There were many airborne exercises to get through but I can confidently say that the Lightning does a great job of easing the workload in the cockpit and is a real pleasure to fly.”

With no two-seat F-35s the training of pilots is heavily reliant upon simulators as Wg Cdr Williams explained:

“Traditionally we train with the instructor in the back seat and the student in the front seat. If things don’t quite go according to plan then there’s someone over your shoulder who can take control, provide help and advice, and encourage the student to try again.

We can’t do that in the live environment on F-35 so the synthetic environment becomes crucial. Fortunately, the F-35 Full Mission Simulator allows you to train everything from the most basic skills, all the way up to teaching and assessing students in tactical formations against potent enemy threats.”

“Many legacy simulators have lacked the fidelity needed to train to high-end tactics, techniques and procedures but contemporary simulators can, and in future, we’ll use networks to train collectively in large virtual environments. That’s where we’re heading.”

This summer F-35s and personnel of 617 Squadron will arrive at RAF Marham. They will then undergo an intense phase of training to be able to declare a land-based Initial Operational Capability by the end of the year. The Lightning OCU, 207 Squadron will follow and occupy new buildings adjacent to the new Dambusters facilities at the Norfolk base in due course.

“We’re not just training pilots on the OCU. Cutting-edge facilities being built at RAF Marham, including our ‘School House’, will train engineers and ops support personnel destined for the Lightning Force. Next year we take what we’ve learned in the USA to the UK and re-form a historic squadron that will begin training all our future Lightning sailors and airmen. It’s a significant and exciting challenge.”

In the UK, 207 Squadron will initially operate five to six aircraft and within about two years have a full complement of eight F-35B. Until then UK personnel will remain an integral part of VMFAT-501, ‘Warlords’, the sole US Marine Corps F-35B training squadron. Commanded by a USMC Lieutenant Colonel, the UK provides a third of the unit’s manpower and a significant number of its instructor pilots.

“That’s a great relationship. Every day, US and UK personnel are flying and engineering each other’s aircraft in one large ‘pool’, which is brilliant” said Wg Cdr Williams.

“Ultimately, it means the UK and USMC can train faster than would otherwise be possible, and we learn a great deal more from each other’s experiences of operating this new jet.”

At the moment, Lightning engineers and mission support personnel are trained at Eglin AFB, Florida. The engineering personnel also use synthetic trainers and learn on equipment that is a step change from what they were taught on at RAF Cosford as Wg Cdr Williams explained:

“When you start peeling back what’s in this aeroplane it’s definitely next-generation stuff, right down to piping conduits and how your repair defects. There are some real engineering improvements from the ‘old school’; it’s a huge jump for the guys and girls on the team.”

One of the innovations of F-35 is the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) which gives F-35 operators the ability to plan, maintain and sustain the aircraft’s systems. Wg Cdr Williams:

“The engineers pull off the joint technical data from the ALIS system and it tells them ‘if this happens, this is how you fix it’. They follow the process and ALIS ticks the aircraft as ready to fly. When all the ticks are completed the aircraft can be released for flight.

In so many ways it’s a different way of doing things that we’ve done for Tornado, Harrier and, to an extent, the Typhoon as well. The F-35 is certainly a game-changing capability for the UK but it wouldn’t happen without a team of dedicated Airmen, Sailors and Marines who work hard every day toward the mission. It’s a huge privilege to be part of that.”

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Mike Saul

The F35 is a game changer in the way air combat is fought.

Forget about talk of 4th generation aircraft being able to compete, they are in a different league to the F22/F35.


Hi Mike,
There’s been much talk about how well F-35 compliments 4th Gen such as Typhoon. Given the investment in Typhoon, do you see the next thirty years being about making those two work together or does F-35 just reshape the entire landscape no matter the role.

Mike Saul

Ian We have made a considerable investment in Typhoon it can still play a role in the future. Could I suggest we compare the spitfire/hurricane partnership of the battle of Britain to the future F35/Typhoon one. Hurricane was completely out classed by the Me109, so they used the Spitfire in dogfights against the Me109 and used the Hurricanes against the bombers. However if you had to make a choice you would prefer Spitfires to Hurricanes and you would prefer F35 to Typhoons. I think if the UK could afford to replace Typhoons with F35 then it would do so, but… Read more »


I like the analogy Mike. Similarly I appreciate your thoughts.

Harry Bulpit

If I could propose a different view I would see the reverse of the above stated view. The typhoon is supposedly better at dogfight then the F35 therefore it would preform in a role similar to spitfire and act as the primary air supremacy fighter flying in mostly friendly skies. Where as the F35 is a much better multi role aircraft and would be much better suited to flying in hostile territory, meaning it would be used mostly in Operations in enemy territory fulfilling a number of roles.


I’ve seen articles on other sites suggesting using the F35B as a sensor node and almost “quarterback” (it was an American site) for 4th Gen fighters carrying far greater numbers of stores. The F35Bs in LO mode are able to cue up targets and transmit them for prosecution by aircraft such as F-15s (in the article’s case) or Typhoon (in our case) which carry far more stores in greater variety.


There was an earlier UKDJ article concerning how F35b and Typhoon will complement each other The spitfire / hurricane analogy doesn’t hold up, Typhoon is a more agile fighter than F35.


Think the analogy holds up very well. F-35s taking out for the greatest threats allowing Typhoons to do as much damage as possible.

Mike Saul

Don’t think you should take my comparison to literally.

It just means in combat the F35 will be superior to the Typhoon and all other 4th generation aircraft. That does not mean there are aspects of the Typhoon that will exceed the F,35 in certain areas. However given the stealth and situational awareness of the F35 it will not allow an opposing combat aircraft to to be at advantage to itself.

You would not want to be in a Gloster Gladiator dogfighting a Me109, even though the former in more agile.


Just checked RAF site and it says T1’s will be retired this year, leaving 107.

I recall there being plans to revisit that decision in 2015 as reported on UKDJ at the time (see link below)

What decision was made in the end?


Presumably with the various on-going developments the Typhoon is enjoying its own situational awareness will also increase until eventually a degree of similarity is achieved between the F35 and Typhoon.

At which point the key for the F35 is its stealth, that is unless over a similar timeframe developments in radar technology make this redundant.

At which point it will be about speed, agility, survivability and weight. Under such an analysis with equivalence achieved in situational awareness and stealth sidestepped the Typhoon could become the superior aircraft? Does that seem possible?

Tim sinnett

I guess it depends on how much scope is available to develope the f35. They could both become redundant anyway if autonomous drones develope quickly.

Alan Reid

What a really interesting debate …… During a century of air combat, 4 out-of-5 pilots shot-down never saw the aircraft that did it. One of the keys to success in a dogfight is giving a pilot exceptional situational awareness (plus an aircraft with good performance, exhilarating acceleration – and the ability to change direction quickly). The historian Mike Spick is worth reading on this subject ……. Typhoon scores highly in all of these measures, indeed rather more highly than critics give it credit for. In general terms, I don’t disagree with where Mike is taking the argument ……… but certainly… Read more »

Keith Durrant

Ginger Lacey did particularly well against 109’s in his Hurricane, a lot depended on the quality of the pilot then. As I assume it still does today…

Alan Reid

As an “ace” pilot, Ginger was naturally gifted with situational awareness. He had good eye-sight, and usually saw his victim first – and therefore could get in the first shot. He also had an ability to keep track of the tactical situation around him, and stay out of trouble. He was also a good shot, or at least had the nerve to fly close to his target. Like all aces, he was lucky – and managed to stay alive long enough to build up a big score. Historically, aces were really important: about half of a squadron’s “kills” were scored… Read more »


If I can add to this discussion my thoughts on this partnership id say the F35 is the Brains and the Typhoon is the Brawn.History has served us well in this regard,the Hurricane was not without its share of successes in combat with the ME109,even against German aces.The trump card for the Typhoon I think will be the Meteor Missile and any future derivatives of it.If I was the MOD/RAF I would be making overtures to the Austrian Government about taking their 15 Typhoons off their hands if and when they change them for something more suited for their needs.If… Read more »


“The engineers pull off the joint technical data from the ALIS system and it tells them ‘if this happens, this is how you fix it’. They follow the process and ALIS ticks the aircraft as ready to fly. When all the ticks are completed the aircraft can be released for flight.” Ahh…the joys of BITE (Built in test equipment) . Its all fantastic as you follow the instructions , identify the defect as a black box, exchange the black box, flash up the system and…its still duff. Then its engineering time and using the knowledge and training you have to… Read more »


Wife took her Ford Fiesta to the garage. Their diagnostic box was broken so they had to send off for a diagnostic box for the diagnostic box.


Since wgen did 8 aircraft squadrons become the norm? How does this squre with the opinion that a QE class carrier would always sail with a dozen f35 when deployed? Has this now increased to 16 or dropped to 8?


I interpet this post to mean that HM Gov sees industrial potential in Typhoon. I think they are right. The F16, F-18, F-15 and Typhoon production lines are all threatened with closure, but there will still be a large export market for a good 4.5 generation plane which is compatible with the F-35, which itself will not be granted to a lot of potential opponents. The evidence is emerging that Typhoon is a worthy opponent for the F-22 which I am guessing means it is a viable export competitor to the Russian and Chinese 5 gen offerings. And it is… Read more »

John H.

I simply do not buy all the hype about the F35 coming from the vested interests. As soon as a couple of JDAMs are stuck the wing pylons an F-35 becomes the most expensive bomb truck in history with about as much stealth as a 747. Maybe this is why the USAF are not giving up on 4th gen production. The recent US defence budget allocated $10.7 billion to purchase 77 F-35’s at a cost $139 million per aircraft. It also allocated $2.0 billion to purchase 24 F-18’s at $83 million per aircraft. That is 60% cheaper. I think it… Read more »


Quick back of a fag packet calculation. Say the defending AA missile has a range of 180miles at mach 3 i.e. fuel for 6 minutes. Typhoon will carry Storm Shadow for large bunker busting missions. It has a range north of 250 miles. So far so good. Both Typhoon and F-35B will carry Spear 3 for smaller and mobile targets. It will have a range of at least 60 miles, so even if you approach under the radar horizon you will be at risk if you are popping up as it were to lock the Spear 3 onto their targets.… Read more »


Not a rebuttal because I’m no expert but one observation is how meaningful back-of-fag-packet calculations can be here. For instance one of your basic assumptions is that the AA missile has “a range of 180 miles at mach 3 i.e. fuel for 6 minutes”. Wouldn’t that be massively variable depending on altitude, the number of manoeuvres it needs to do on its way to the intercept, etc? Admittedly your b-o-f-p calculation gives the missile quite a bit of leeway in that it has 4 minutes of fuel left but only needs 2.5 minutes to catch up so maybe those other… Read more »


I took it into my head to play with a few numbers. I confess I am not expert. I’m sure if they were allowed by the official secrets act the professionals would tear me apart with technical stuff on decoys and jamming etc. And by AA I actually was thinking of the Russian S-400 system. But the exercise does point to why the powered Spead 3 is much better than the US small diameter bomb. Specifically if you can get its range up to 90 miles you could argue that with a low level approach you don’t need stealth even… Read more »


The S400 has been mooted as the best SAM system currently fielded. The main system benefit is that it is networked and modular as it does not rely on a pair of search/track radars. It was designed to counter the F35 specifically and it does this by using a multitude of different radars operating in different bands of the spectrum, spread around the perceived threat axis. Therefore by networking the radars together you can get a very astute picture of anything that enters your defended area. To counter this, you require data from ELINT aircraft. These will measure the radar… Read more »


Two Points I’d like to make. 1. The S400 SAM system is reputed to be the best system currently in production and “deployable”. Further it was specifically designed to counter stealthy aircraft namely the F35. It does this by being a networked system. By this, I mean it uses more than a pair of radars for search and track (>5). These are placed along the perceived threat axis and cover a full spectrum of frequencies. By using a broad spectrum of frequencies makes it much harder for an aircraft designers to combat these using radar absorbent material (RAM) as it… Read more »


Does your comment re the relatively short range of the F-35 relate only to the B model or also to the A model?


Can’t believe I posted this twice – muppet!


It was a very interesting and educational post so the double post was worthwhile. Lie down and rest after all that brain work ?