The first of Britain’s new F-35B fighters has touched down in the UK for the first time, landing at RAF Fairford on 29th June. The F-35B Lightning II jet was flown by RAF pilot Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols, accompanied by two United States Marine Corps F-35B aircraft from their training base at Beaufort, South Carolina.
They were subsequently joined by two USAF F-35As from the 56th Tactical Fighter Wing at Luke AFB.
The combined US/UK team of aircrew and engineers are in the UK to participate at the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough International Air Show over the next few weeks. The F-35Bs are also scheduled to make flyovers of their future base at RAF Marham and of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier.
The F-35B is due to enter service with the Royal Navy and RAF from 2018. The first operational squadron will be 617 Sqn “The Dambusters” based at RAF Marham. The UK — the only “Level 1” international partner in the programme — plans to buy a total of 138 F-35Bs.
The UK visit follows the F-35’s first European trip last month, when two F-35As of the Royal Netherlands Air Force conducted a test deployment at Leeuwarden and Volkel air bases.