Three F-35B fighter aircraft, one British and two from the US Marine Corps have landed in the UK for the very first time.
The jets are here to display at the RIAT and Farnborough airshows in July before returning to train British pilots at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.
The jet which is the world’s most advanced and can land vertically, will be in British operational service from 2018 and operating from the brand new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers from 2023.
The US Marine Corps had revealed plans last year regarding sending a pair of F-35B’s to two air shows in Britain this summer, it is understood that this is in addition to one British aircraft.
The British and American aircraft are in the UK for two major airshows.
Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lieutenant General Jon Davis said:
“The US Marine Corps is looking forward to demonstrating the capabilities of the F-35B Lightning II in the skies over the United Kingdom this July.”
It is understood that the joint US Marine Corps and UK detachment will “utilise the flights in order to validate foreign deployment activities and to prove program interoperability.”
The aircraft touched down at RAF Fairford, one British and two American jets, along with their tanker and support aircraft.
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. In 2015, the UK government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed a planned order of 138 F-35s, with 23 of them to be available for carrier duties by 2023.
The UK will have an operational fleet of around 63 aircraft which is less than half of the total number of F-35’s that the UK has agreed to purchase However, the total number will cover attrition replacements and the sustainment fleet.
The programme is progressing at a steady rate with the Royal Air Force recently starting in-flight refuelling clearance trials of its Voyager tanker with the F-35.
The F-35B’s maiden operational deployment is set for late 2017 and it’s bound for the Western Pacific. The jet will deploy aboard an amphibious assault ship. The F-35B has already flown from American assault ships as part of a series of tests, which largely went well.