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UK F-35s to deploy overseas for first time
UK F-35 Lightning on HMS Queen Elizabeth. © Lockheed Martin

UK F-35s to deploy overseas for first time

The Lightning Force will deploy for two months to the RAF’s air base at Akrotiri in southern Cyprus.

UK F-35s will deploy overseas for the first time in a decade, as Royal Navy jet pilots prepare for their first spell of training aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth this autumn.

The deployment will also train and test all aspects of moving the F-35 aircraft to a new location – including all the logistic support, maintenance, and personnel required to get the Lightning off the ground.

The Lightning Force will deploy for two months to the RAF’s air base at Akrotiri in southern Cyprus, which was also the base chosen the last time that naval aviators took a front-line fast jet overseas, in the final weeks of the Harrier's service in September 2010.

The F-35s arrived in the UK last year, flying across the Atlantic to their new permanent home at RAF Marham.

Since then, they have been gradually developing the individual and collective tactics which will allow the fighter to deploy around the world on combat operations either from Royal Navy carriers or from allied air bases such as Akrotiri.

Once the Mediterranean deployment is complete the Lightnings will return to Norfolk to gear up to sail with HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Eastern Seaboard of the USA in the late summer/early autumn.

So far all the F-35s operating from Marham serve with the RAF’s legendary 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – although two in every five personnel on the squadron are Royal Navy. As part of the UK’s plan to buy more than 130 Lightnings, a second F-35 squadron will form next decade under Fleet Air Arm tutelage, 809 NAS naval air squadron.

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