UPDATED 3 June | After last week’s successful deployment of two Dutch F-35A Lightning IIs to the Netherlands, Lockheed Martin and the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) are now preparing to send five jets to the UK for participation in two major airshows. The jets are expected to arrive in the UK on Monday 27 June, according to Lockheed Martin.
Update: latest info is that the US Air Force F-35As will not participate in the Farnborough airshow, but will leave for the US again after being on display at Fairford. The USMC F-35Bs are still scheduled for
both Fairford and Farnborough.
With the support of Lockheed Martin and the JPO, both the US Air Force (USAF) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) will send F-35s over the Atlantic, marking the first time they do so. The air force variant will be ‘vanilla’ F-35A variant, while the USMC sends its F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant. The latter will perform an air-to-air refuelling demonstration at Fairford with the help of a USMC KC-130J tanker aircraft.
The airshow at Fairford is held from 8 until 10 July, while Farnborough is held between 11 and 17 July. The Royal Air Force is still addressing the possibility of also sending one of its F-35Bs currently based in the US, to the airshows. It would give British taxpayers their first glimpse of an actual RAF Lightning II.
The participation in the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford and the Farnborough International Airshow in July was announced earlier this year and follows the cancelled appearance in 2014. The F-35’s presence as both airshows this year was due to be the type’s international airshow debut. However, the Royal Netherlands Air Force will steal that honour by displaying the F-35 at an airshow in Leeuwarden on 10 and 11 June.
Lockheed Martin was modestly represented upon arrival of the Dutch F-35s on 23 May, but is likely to fully play out the debut at Fairford and Farnborough. The UK is the only ‘level 1’ partner in the F-35 weapons program.