Credit Lockheed Martin
The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the F-35 Lightning will be making its first appearance outside the US at the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough International Air Show in July.
It is planned that one of the UK’s three F-35B Lightning flown be one of the UK pilots will make an appearance at the two UK’s major air shows this July. It will not be until 2018 when 617 Squadron RAF returns the US that the type will be seen on a regular basis in the UK when the squadron returns from the US where it will work up after being reformed along side the USMC F-35B squadrons. Currently British pilots are undergoing training with VMFAT-501 the USMC’s F-35B training squadron and it’s planned that 617 Squadron will reform at Elgin AFB before moving to MCAS Beaufort in 2016 with 809 NAS standing up along side 617 squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk during 2018, in order to provide the first of the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers with the fixed wing strike components of their tailored air group.
In the Meantime no 17 squadron will stand up in the US in order to carry out the UK’s Testing and operational evaluation of the Lighting. With each of the squadrons being manned by pilots and ground crew from both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
The Transatlantic deployment will allow F-35 Program Office a chance to assess the logistics maintenance aerial refuelling and security systems of the F-35 which will form the future offensive capability of the new UK carriers.
The Farnborough debut of the F-35B is similar MV-22B which was showcased at the 2006 Farnborough International Air Show making its first flight outside the US when two USMC, MV-22B Ospreys from VMX-22, made the transatlantic crossing to be showcased at the Farnborough International Air Show, although it was not until 2014 that the first export orders where received from Israel who have ordered six aircraft and Japan who have placed an order for 17 of the tilt rotors.