Four more British Lightnings

The first flight for the UK’s first F-35, known as BK-1. (Image © Lockheed-Martin)
The first UK F-35, seen during its first flight. (Image © Lockheed-Martin)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is all set to order four F-35B Lightning II aircraft on top of three aircraft already delivered. The four aircraft are part of the first production run, according to UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on Tuesday 28 October 2014.

London and Lockheed Martin have reached an agreement in principle, with the formal contract expected to be signed within the next few weeks. Over the next few years, the UK is planning to acquire another ten of the costly 5th generation fighter aircraft.

The UK has chosen the STOVL F-35B to replace the Panavia Tornado in the Royal Air Force. The type is also to operate from the UK aircaft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, starting in 2018. Three early production F-35B were already delivered, flying from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Along with British personnel, the three will later this year transfer to Edwards AFB, California, to begin Initial Operational Test and Evaluation.

The first of the four newly ordered aircraft is set to be delivered in 2016. The squadron destined to fly the new birds is 617 ‘Dambusters’ squadron, initially at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, South Carolina.

© 2014 editor Elmer van Hest