Three F-35B aircraft, one from the UK and two from the USA, touched down at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on June 29, along with their tanker and support aircraft.
The aircraft are part of a demonstration program which will see the next-generation jets flown at two airshows in Britain including the Farnborough International Airshow, which is due to take place on July 16 and 17.
The UK will build a front-line fleet of four F-35 squadrons with each squadron comprising 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-35s that the UK has agreed to purchase However, the total number will cover attrition replacements and the sustainment fleet.
The program is progressing at a steady rate with the Royal Air Force recently starting inflight refueling 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.
July 1, 2016