The UK’s Royal Air Force has announced that it has nine F-35B Lightning jets ready to be deployed on operations around the world.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said, “Our F-35s are now ready to deploy on operations and alongside our combat-proven Typhoon, offer a step-change in our ability to employ air power around the world.”
The announcement was made during the opening of a new maintenance hangar and training facility at RAF base Marham in Norfolk, UK. These facilities, along with resurfaced runways and new landing pads to accommodate the short take-off and vertical landing jets, are part of a £550m (US$705m) investment program at the base.
During the coming year F-35 Lightning pilots from the RAF’s 617 Squadron and ground crew will start using four new simulators, classrooms, and physical aircraft mock-ups at RAF Marham to practice how to fly and maintain the F-35.
The readiness of the F-35s for operations was heralded by the UK government as a landmark in the biggest defence project in history. Some 17 of a total of 138 F-35s have so far been delivered to the RAF.
Around 150 UK personnel had been working with the jets in the USA before the first batch of aircraft came to the UK last summer. The RAF has also already tested the interoperability its Typhoon and F-35 Forces’ interoperability in a series of operational trials.