F-35B to appear at two UK air shows
The Navy’s next-generation strike fighter will make its first appearance in British skies this summer when it debuts at two of the world’s biggest air shows.
The F35 Lightning II – the punch of Britain’s two future aircraft carriers – will be appearing at the Fairford and Farnborough shows in July, the first time the stealth fighter has appeared outside the USA.
The British people will see the aircraft which will give wings to the Navy’s future carriers for the first time this summer.
The F35 Lightning II will make its international debut at two of the world’s biggest air shows just a few days after HMS Queen Elizabeth is named by the monarch in Rosyth.
Never before has the futuristic strike fighter – the first ‘fifth-generation’ jet to be flown by British pilots – been on display outside the USA.
But it will be fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in Gloucestershire – the largest military air show in the world – from July 11-13.
The next day the Lightning II will fly into Farnborough Air Show for a six-day appearance – the first four days to the aviation and military industry, then on July 19 and 20 to civilians.
“July will be a real milestone in the rebirth of the UK’s carrier strike capability,” said First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas.
“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 II – flying on the international stage for the first time.”
Fleet Air Arm and RAF pilots have been flying the F35 in the USA since last year, while ground crews and engineers have spent several years determining how to maintain an aircraft which is two generations more advanced than the Royal Navy’s last jet, the legendary Harrier.
The decision to fly the F35 outside the USA for the first time follows discussions between Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and his US counterpart Chuck Hagel.
Although the F35 is assembled at Fort Worth in Texas by Lockheed Martin, the fighter is an Anglo-American venture with around one seventh of it designed and built in the UK. Some 130 British firms are providing parts and equipment for it, worth around £1bn per year to the UK economy.
Given that history and that investment by our nation, Mr Hammond said it was “entirely fitting that the F35’s first stop outside the United States will be in the UK – its second home.”
Britain has bought three trial models of the jump jet version of the Lightning II, with orders for more aircraft due to be placed over the next few years.
The UK’s first operational Lightning II formation, 617 Sqn – an RAF squadron but with personnel drawn from the Air Force and Fleet Air Arm – will begin training in the USA later this decade before moving to RAF Marham in Norfolk in 2018 ready to begin flight trials with HMS Queen Elizabeth.
In due course, the Fleet Air Arm will form its own F35 squadron, 809 NAS, again a joint RAF-RN venture.