The F-35 Lightning II aircraft will make its international debut in July this summer, the British Defence Secretary has announced.
The F-35 Lightning II will participate in the flight demonstration at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford (11-13 July, 2014). It will continue to the Farnborough International Air Show (14-20 July) where it will also participate in the aerial flight display. Current plans call for several F-35s to participate in these air shows, at least one will be the Short Take-Off and Landing (STOVL) variant F-35B ordered for the Royal Air Force and Naval Air Arm.
The participation of the Joint Strike Fighter at an international airshow will undoubtedly support the positioning of the F-35 in several international fighter procurement programs currently underway in Denmark, Canada. It will further improve the exposure of the aircraft in countries that have already confirmed procurement but are still undecided about the quantities they will buy – Italy, Norway, Turkey, Israel and Japan.
“The appearance of F-35 aircraft at Farnborough International Air Show and the Royal International Air Tattoo demonstrates the good progress being made on the Joint Strike Fighter Programme.” Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, said. The decision to fly the combat aircraft outside of the United States for the first time followed discussions between British defense minister Philip Hammond and his US counterpart, Secretary Chuck Hagel. The selection of two UK airshows also demonstrates the significant role that Britain has in the programme. Approximately 15 per cent of every aircraft is built in the UK. “The US and the UK have worked closely together on the F-35 project from the beginning. We are the only country that is a Level 1 partner in the project, which is sustaining tens of thousands of jobs in the UK.” Hammond said, “This fifth generation stealth combat aircraft will be a major boost to British combat air power and it is entirely fitting that the F-35’s first stop outside the United States will be in the UK – its second home.”
“The appearance of F-35 aircraft at Farnborough International Air Show and the Royal International Air Tattoo demonstrates the good progress being made on the Joint Strike Fighter Programme.”
The MoD has three aircraft which are all currently based in the US undertaking training with Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots. Orders for further aircraft will be placed over the next few years. The UK’s first operational Lightning II squadron, 617 Squadron, is scheduled to transition to RAF Marham in Norfolk from the US in 2018 ahead of flight trials of the Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier later that year. The F-35 Lightning II will be capable of undertaking a wide range of operations from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to high intensity combat, including air defence for a Carrier Task Group and offensive support for ground forces.
“July will be a real milestone in the rebirth of the UK’s carrier strike capability.” First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas added, “Alongside the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth by Her Majesty the Queen on 4 July, we can now also look forward to seeing the F35B – the Lightning 2 – flying on the international stage for the first time.”