The first four Royal Air Force Lockheed Martin F-35B Lighting IIs arrived at their new home base at RAF Marham in Norfolk on June 6.
The four aircraft of 617 Squadron, known as the ‘Dambusters’, ferried across the Atlantic Ocean from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in North Carolina where they have been based as the RAF builds up trained pilots and maintenance personnel. They were refuelled on the non-stop ferry by two RAF Airbus A330 MRTT Voyagers.
“This aircraft will truly transform how the UK conducts its defence operations and it is fitting that the next generation of combat air power has arrived as the RAF celebrates its centenary,” Lockheed Martin UK chief executive Peter Ruddock said in a statement.
“As a key partner in the F-35 program from its early stages, the UK has been instrumental in shaping the design and development of the aircraft, particularly in relation to the short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities.”
The ferry to the UK of the first four jets was conducted two months ahead of schedule, and the RAF now has a total of 15 F-35Bs in service at RAF Marham, MCAS Beaufort, and with the JSF Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB in California.
617 Sqn will continue to work up to before conducting its first at-sea trials aboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth II later in 2018, ahead of achieving an initial operational capability by the end of the year.