Squadron Leader Andy Edgell is currently testing F-35 jets in the United States ahead of their trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.

“She’s marvellous. She has an incredible amount of thrust but it’s more than just brawn that makes her so fantastic to fly – it’s the brains behind her as well.

She’s a masterful piece of engineering and it makes her so effortless to fly. It’s impossible not to be exhilarated every time. She’s a beast when you want her to be and tame when you need her to be. She’s beautiful.

The launch of the F35s from the HMS Queen Elizabeth is a once in a generation historical event. To be the first to fly off the carrier, to have a front row seat, would be an absolute privilege. It wouldn’t just be about the pilot – there are hundreds of people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen and the honour will be theirs too.”

There are already 150 UK personnel out in the US working with the state-of-the-art jets, and the latest course of UK pilots have just finished their ground school training and are now ready to fly the F-35B at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.

The Defence Minister also announced that last week, the first F-35 flight with the latest software was conducted on one of the UK’s F-35Bs at Edwards Air Force Base in California. This software upgrade, technically known as Block 3F, represents the full warfighting capability the UK F-35s will have at Initial Operating Capability in December 2018.

UK industry will provide approximately 15% of the value of each F-35 to be built, more than 3,000, worth some £1 billon and generating around 25,000 British jobs. The programme remains on time, within costs and offers the best capability for our Armed Forces.



  1. Has it been confirmed this guy will be the first as the article makes it sound like he is just saying what an honour it would be should it be him. Nice to hear how enthusiastic he and other pilots are about the F-35. I know the project has had serious issues but time and again pilots praise it and these are the guys who will have to put their lives on the line flying it in combat, so I think we should take notice of what they say. I am old enough to remember how the Tornado was lambasted prior to its entry into service and 35+ years later we are mourning its retirement in 2019, so I am confident that we shall see something similar with the F-35.

  2. This should be seen as really good news for us and hopefully will speed up developing the aircraft for operational capability.

    However, it has been reported in a number of Russian and “Arab” news feeds that a Israeli aircraft had been targeted and shot down. According to the available information, the Syrian Defence Forces used a S-200 (SA-5) missile against the Israeli warplane that invaded its airspace. This Soviet-made missile is the most advanced long range anti-aircraft system operated by the Syrian military. Even though it’s old-fashioned in terms by modern standards.

    Despite this, the Syrian Defence Ministry said in its statement that government forces responded to the violation of the airspace and “directly hit one of the jets, forcing [Israeli aircraft] to retreat.” This statement contradicts to the Israeli claim that “no hit” was confirmed.

    Few hours after the missile incident with Syria, the Israeli media reported that the Israeli Air Force’s F-35 stealth multi-role fighter went unserviceable as a result of an alleged bird collision during a training flight.

    The incident allegedly took place “two weeks ago” but was publicly reported only on October 16. However, Israeli sources were not able to show a photo of the F-35 warplane after the “bird collision”; which they blame on a couple of storks!

    What is most concerning about the above statements is that the S200 (SA-5) SAM system was built and designed in the 60s. It has had a number of upgrades since then, it usually uses a H band continuous wave radar operating in the 6 – 8 GHz band for both detection and target illumination for the semi active homing missile. The SA-5 is one of the most widely used missile systems in the World and as such its capabilities are well documented.

    Therefore it is a worrying coincidence if the “Birdstrike” aircraft did suffer a hit from the S200. Especially as you would have thought the in-built stealth design of the F35 was designed to counter such a system. The F35 is not an air superiority fighter, its main function is as a first strike aircraft with a secondary role in air defence.

    It has been noted that the S200 system can be controlled by a S400 (SA-21) command post. Iran has already admitted that it buddies the S200 and S300 systems together. In Syria, Russia and Iran are working closely together, especially as Iran has developed the S200 system further. So is it a massive stretch of the imagination to say that the Syrian S200 was controlled by the S400?

    The likely hood of the S200 radar system detecting let alone tracking a F35 is I would say very remote. The S400 on the other hand, uses a S band (2 – 4 GHz) as a general search radar. But more worrying, the S400 groups together various radars to search and track stealthy targets, specifically F35. It uses a combined long wave VHF and L band radar for area search with X band radars for target tracking. It also uses remotely deployed radars that are networked together to try a get a good multi angle reflection from a stealthy target.

    So this is how I see it, The F35 was conducting a “Reconnaisance/Familiarisation” flight over Lebonon “close” to the Syrian border, when it was detected by the S400. Being Russian controlled it couldn’t fire a missile directly at the aircraft, but used its proxy i.e. a Syrian S200 missile. This was fired and the missile exploded nearby causing some damage to the aircraft. The damage was not significant as the aircraft recovered back to base.

    The retaliation from the Israelis was swift, as they launched a strike at the S200 battery. The Syrians admitted the battery was out of action from suffering minor damage.

    Still worrying though for the supposedly lauded capabilities of the 5th Gen F35!

      • I recognise its a bit if a stretch, especially when considering the credibility of both the Russian and Syrian press. However, it is worth taking note that Russia have a S400 battery in Syria near to the Lebanese border and that it can network control the S200 system. And coincidentally a F35 was damaged in a bird strike incident on the same day.

        However, what can be gleaned as truth is that “Syria” did launch a S200 missile at an Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon this month and due to their actions, Israel did launch an air strike at the missile battery disabling it. This missile battery has launched at Israeli aircraft before (March 2017), which subsequently missed. The missile was then was shot down by their Arrow system.

        “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can’t think of anything better.” Mark Twain

    • So…. F-16s are able to evade this very old SAM…. but an F-35, many miles away in the south of Israel is somehow detected and shot down!


      Kremlinbots aren’t what they used to be

    • Russian news is not news, it’s propaganda. Propaganda with the almost single aim of keeping Putin in power. You should treat anything reported by them with extreme skepticism.

  3. Did I read that correctly? IOC for UK F-35s in 13 months time?

    Its all coming together very quickly now. Thumbs up to all concerned.

  4. The IOC can’t come soon enough and hopefully all the “Naysayers” will be put back in their boxes. There will be a significant period of wow didn’t know it could do that and have you seen what it did there, once the capabilities have been explored and exploited. I’m not sure how Russia or China will be able to compete against it by comparable aircraft. As it has been reported that both the PAK-FA and J21 are suffering significant engine and airframe issues.

    I expect the first two years post IOC, the aircraft will suffer some faults and develop some interesting issues, but this is to be expected for such a technologically advanced aircraft. Typhoon had the same niggles when it was first introduced, especially when validating updated flight control software changes amongst its partner Nations. I hoping the lessons learned from that process will be used on the Lightning.

    Then we’ll be speculating on the Typhoon replacement no doubt, perhaps powered by something from Reaction Engines!

  5. UK to build 15% of each F 35 more than 3000 to be built worth some 1 billion-that figure does not sound right unless it is the’old’ UK billion. If it is the US billion then only 300 thousand pounds per aircraft?


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