Test pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson has completed the 1,000th vertical landing in an F-35B as part of ongoing flight testing of the jet.
“Every day, the test team carries out numerous take-offs, landings and sorties with the aim of ensuring the aircraft is performing in accordance with our expectations. To be the pilot who conducted the 1,000th vertical landing is a bit special, especially given it was Graham “GT” Tomlinson who conducted the first in 2010.
As is usually the case, the aircraft was flawless, which makes the work very satisfying. It is of paramount importance to us that the F-35B is ready for the UK warfighter and everything we’re doing points to the fact that it’s ready. ‘First of Class’ Flight Trials on the Queen Elizabeth Class are less than 3 years from now and there’s still a lot of work to do.”
The milestone occurred at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, USA and came just 6 years since another British pilot, Graham Tomlinson, completed the first vertical landing.
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.