F-35Bs Arrive in the United Kingdom
RAF MARHAM, NORFOLK, United Kingdom — The United Kingdom has welcomed home its first four F-35B advanced fighter aircraft, which will be flown by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, Lockheed Martin said in a June 6 release.
With the aid of air-to-air refueling, the aircraft flew nonstop across the Atlantic from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Beaufort, South Carolina, where U.K. pilots have been undergoing intensive training on the aircraft in partnership with their U.S. Marine Corps counterparts.
“This aircraft will truly transform how the U.K. conducts its defense operations and it is fitting that the next generation of combat air power has arrived as the RAF celebrates its centenary,” said Peter Ruddock, chief executive, Lockheed Martin UK. “As a key partner in the F-35 program from its early stages, the U.K. has been instrumental in shaping the design and development of the aircraft, particularly in relation to the short take-off and vertical landing capabilities.”
The aircraft have arrived two months ahead of schedule, which will allow the U.K.’s Lightning Force to focus on achieving initial operational capability by the end of 2018. The first flight trials with the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are expected later this year.
Comprehensive sustainment support for the U.K.’s fleet of F-35 aircraft based at RAF Marham will be provided by Lightning Team UK, which represents the blended industry team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce.
The United Kingdom currently has 15 F-35B aircraft in total, the remainder of which are stationed at MCAS Beaufort or Edwards Air Force Base in California, where they are involved in testing and training.
Around the world, there are now nearly 300 F-35 aircraft operating from 15 bases globally and the program has achieved more than 140,000 flight hours.