We are providing live coverage of the arrival of the first four British F-35Bs in the United Kingdom as they fly from the United States.

It is understood that the jets will be supported on the move by Voyager tankers. British F-35B initial operational capability is scheduled will be declared in December 2018 for land and the from the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in 2020.

For the live and automatically updating coverage page, please click here.

This year, the UK’s first F-35 squadron, 617 Squadron, will declare initial operational capability.

It’s no secret that British forces wouldn’t have been able to reach that goal without their partnership with the US Marine Corps. In order to train to meet operational requirements, a decision was made many years ago to integrate the training of the USMC and RAF together. About 10 years ago the UK’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy began discussions about combining efforts on initial F-35B training with the United States Marine Corps.

Air Commodore Harv Smyth, UK Lightning Force Commander said:

“It started out as just a conversation about, ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea to pool our resources? In the early years, we knew we’d both have a small number of jets and a small number of people training, so it just made sense to work together.”

These discussions eventually resulted in a ‘pooling implementation agreement’ between the RAF, Royal Navy and USMC.

The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy plan to operate 138 F-35B aircraft. Their training will take place at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, where British pilots and maintainers will be embedded with the US Marine Corps and their fleet of F-35Bs.

14 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a cracking picture

    A question ?
    What is the major difference in the probe used by the UK and the back of the neck slot as used primarily by the US. As for the life in me I would have presumed that the former would afford less risk of damage.

    • I think the USAF boom can pass fuel at a faster rate than the hose and drogue used by the USN, USMC and UK aircraft thus reducing the time connected to the tanker and therefore risk. The system was developed at a time when big bombers were the main recipients and they obviously have a different set of drivers than does a small stealth coated fighter.

    • Farouk, the boom and UARRSI receptacle (that stands for universal aerial refuelling receptacle slipway installation) can transmit fuel at twice the rate approximately than the hose and drogue unit used by European air forces and USN. Also, it’s a lot easier to perform. All the pilot has to do is fly to a position behind and below the tanker indicated by markings or lights and hold station. The complex job of connecting up is the responsibility of the boom operator in the tanker who ‘flies’ and extends the boom into position. On the hose and drogue system the tanker does very little except fly straight and level. The tricky bit is all done by the receiver’s pilot who has to engage the receptacle inside the drogue and then push the hose back into the pod to initiate fuel flow. It is quite a difficult manoeuvre to accomplish, particularly at night and when the drogue is not flying very stable in buffeting or turbulent conditions. Many aircraft probes have been broken and this is also very dangerous. The advantage of the hose and drogue is that you can fuel two aircraft at the time providing they are fighters.

  2. ED. Have you noticed that your Home page isn’t updating with the most recent postings and that this page isn’t on it?

  3. First time I’ve noticed a FLIR window on the nose of the F-35 in front of the canopy. The big chin mounted window containing the IRST and designator has always been there but I must admit I have not seen the little FLIR window on top before. Maybe I haven’t been looking. Presumably this is one of the six situational awareness FLIR cameras situated round the aircraft, one forward, one aft, one on each side, one below and one above which, when combined, give the pilot global visibility round the aircraft on his helmet mounted display and enables him to (easily) see straight down through the floor of the aeroplane!

  4. I rarely read tabloids but thought I’d see what the Daily Mail made of the F-35Bs arrival. Their piece was not bad, quite fair really, though missing the important point about the UK producing 15% of each F-35 and just how much that will bring to the economy. I braced myself and scrolled to the comments. Some welcoming the planes, but too many commenting on the fact that poor weather had delayed the planes by a day. This was despite the piece clearly stating the reasons behind the delay, so either they didn’t read the piece, have no clue about the complexity of the operation, or are among the section of the population that seemingly sneers at every opportunity.

    Congratulations and well done to everyone involved in bringing the first four F-35Bs home.

    • Clive-I have a headache(really) from reading and trying to reply to some of the comments on the Mail online. I try to avoid and each time swear to myself I will never return. It is just too stressful. The article was sort of OK but some of the comments are beyond ignorant and seriously dangerous to ones health-I say this only half tongue in cheek. There is one commentator-Gnostic-posting from GCHQ Cheltenham(supposedly??). His posts are a mix of the sensible and knowledgeable mixed with the outrageous-e.g. we should have built 4 smaller carriers, the Harrier could be returned to design for 75000 pounds and oh maybe they would have to make new jigs, the Lancaster is basically better than the F35 etc etc.. I am not a conspiracy theorist but thought this HAS to be a Putin man. I posted such an opinion and my post was censored. Also whilst a couple of posts got mostly likes, some that i thought were sensible got lots of thumbs down! Serious stuff chaps-a free exchange of ideas is one of the pillars of true democracy but no question that among the ignorant are some sinister characters

  5. Air refuelling both systems have advantages and disadvantages.

    The USAF mode requires very large aircraft to carry out the refuelling process, due the boom apparatus but delivers fuel much faster.

    The USN/RAF mode is more flexible were much smaller aircraft can be used, for example one USN F18 can refuel another USN F18. The flow is slower.

    The UK air tanker should be able to do both, given the number of US platforms we are buying that require boom refuelling (P8 and RC135). This is possible, as the RAAF Airbus 330 tanker shows,but nothing is being done to update the UK fleet.

  6. I suppose the point I am trying to make (not very well) is that support for our Armed Forces and their equipment is being undermined-not to say that we should not question the makeup of the mix but it seems that much comment is designed to affect morale and confuse the public and from this, influence decision makers to our detriment

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