U.K. Takes Delivery of Final F-35B This Year
LONDON — The United Kingdom has taken delivery of its 14th F-35B Lightning II, which flew into Beaufort, S.C., to take its place as part of the Lightning fleet set to operate from Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and RAF Marham, the U.K. Ministry of Defence announced in a Dec. 18 release.
Operated jointly by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the F-35 Lightning jets will be able to operate on land or embarked on the U.K.’s new aircraft carriers. This delivery is a significant milestone for the Lightning program and, alongside the formal commissioning of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier into the Royal Navy earlier this month, demonstrates the advancement towards the establishment of the U.K.’s Carrier Enabled Power Projection capability.
‘‘This Christmas delivery is the 14th jet to join our fleet of fifth-generation F-35 fighters over in the U.S.,” said Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. “The carriers have taken centerstage this year, and next year we look toward these aircraft joining us in Britain and taking off from HMS Queen Elizabeth’s enormous deck to undertake First-of-Class Flight Trials. With our famous Royal Air Force coming into its 100th anniversary, the F-35 keeps us right at the cutting-edge of combat air power.’’
‘‘There are more than 500 UK companies in our supply chain who play a vital role in producing every F-35 and we are proud to have delivered the UK’s 14th aircraft on schedule,” said Peter Ruddock, chief executive of Lockheed Martin UK. “More than 260 F-35s are now flying from 14 bases around the world and we look forward to supporting the U.K.’s Lightning Force, as they prepare to bring their F-35s to the U.K. and achieve initial operational capability next year.’’
There are some 200 British personnel based at Beaufort testing the aircraft and getting them ready to arrive in the United Kingdom next summer as 617 Squadron. Preparations also are being made for First-of-Class Flight Trials, due to take place on HMS Queen Elizabeth later next year. The program is on schedule to achieve Initial Operating Capability from land next year with Initial Operating Capability Carrier Strike in 2020.
In 2018, the aircraft — along with the Navy and RAF pilots and ground crew — will arrive in the United Kingdom to officially stand up at RAF Marham in Norfolk. RAF Marham will be the Main Operating Base for the Lightning Force in the United Kingdom and from there they will deploy forward to either embark on-board the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers or operate from deployed operating bases.
Following successful trials on the land based ski-ramp design that is featured on the U.K. flagship, and with the RAF Marham runway infrastructure completed as part of a major investment program in preparation for the F-35 arrival, Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin earlier this year announced that the F-35 was cleared for takeoff.
As the only level-one partner on the F-35 program, the United Kingdom has been working closely with the United States from the outset. U.K. industry will provide approximately 15 percent by value of each F-35 to be built, which are due to total more than 3,000. The program already has generated $12.9 billion worth of orders for the United Kingdom and at peak production the program will support over 24,000 jobs in the United Kingdom.