Many news outlets report that complex electronics in the new F-35 jets will have to be sent to US for repairs for security reasons, that is not the case.
Even though the systems are made by BAE. Articles suggest that due to US export regulations, RAF engineers will not be able to fully service the equipment.
The MOD’s statement on this is below:
“UK F-35 aircraft operating in the US are being maintained by RAF and Royal Navy specialists, who are able to undertake all necessary squadron work on avionics components. Whilst the aircraft remain based in the US, components requiring industrial-level maintenance are repaired there. The F-35 programme is looking to establish repair facilities around the globe before UK aircraft begin operating from RAF Marham in 2018.”
It is expected that the UK will build a front-line fleet of four F-35 squadrons with each squadron having 12 jets. A fifth unit, an operational conversion unit, will also operate 12 aircraft.
The structure of the Lightning force is now somewhat clear.
- 17(R) Squadron is currently based at Edwards Air Force Base in the US and fills role of F-35B Operational Evaluation Unit.
- 617 Squadron will be based at RAF Marham and will be the first operational British F-35 unit in 2019.
- 809 Naval Air Squadron will also be based at RAF Marham.
- 2 more unnamed frontline Squadrons are to be established.
- 1 Operation Conversion Squadron will also be formed.
The F-35B’s maiden operational deployment is set for late 2017 with the US and it’s bound for the Western Pacific. The jet will deploy aboard an amphibious flattop and the US Marine Corps are planning a more powerful escort force to support it, according to Admiral Scott Swift, head of Pacific Fleet, as reported by the Marine Times. The F-35B has already flown from American assault ships as part of a series of tests, which largely went well.
The UK plans to purchase 138 of the type as costs continue to fall and issues with the jet are rapidly resolved.