A US Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II fighter aircraft refueled from a US Air Force KC-135 for the first time on August 20, 2013. The Air Force (A) and Marines VSTOL (B) versions already made such a flight earlier. The F-35 CF-1 was piloted by Lt. Col. Patrick Moran. Earlier this month, the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, the Navy’s first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant aircraft squadron, completed its first flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
The F-35 is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter and is supposed to be the premier next-generation air combat asset of many NATO and US-allied countries for decades to come.
1x Dassault DA-20 Jet Falcon VIP transport aircraft
18x Bell 412SP utility & transport helicopter
6x NHI NH90 helicopter for coast guard duties and as shipborne anti-submarine / anti-ship and naval support
12x Westland Sea King Mk 43 search-and-rescue helicopter
16x Saab MFI-15 Safari basic training aircraft
20x Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealty multi-role fighters. Total requirement 52. First two aircraft delivered in 2015 to Luke AFB, no. 3 and 4 in 2016 and then 6 aircraft every year in the years that follow. F-35s will replace F-16s.
8x NHI NH90 helicopter for coast guard duties and as shipborne anti-submarine / anti-ship and naval support
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF / KLu) received its first next-generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II on July 25th, 2013. Although the Joint Strike Fighter is now officially Dutch, it will almost immediately after the planned ferry flight from Forth Worth, Texas, to Eglin AFB, Florida, be stored there. Reason: the Dutch parliament has not decided yet if it likes to continue with the purchase of up to 56 F-35s.
The Netherlands ordered two aircraft, the first in 2009, but budget crises and increasing JSF development and production costs scared off the Dutch people’s representatives a bit.
The second Dutch test JSF has been produced as well. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence it undergoes a series of test and acceptance flights before it will join the first KLu F-35 stored at Eglin. The mothballing will continue until the Netherlands government makes a final decision on which aircraft will succeed the RNLAF F-16 fighters.
The Royal Air Force announced that 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’ will be the first operational squadron using Lockheed Martin Lightning II aircraft, designated F-35B and also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton made the announcement at a Royal United Services Institute conference on Air Power. 617 Squadron is first to disband on April 1st, 2014, when its Tornado GR4 aircraft will be retired. The Dambusters will rise from the ashes in 2016 when the new Lightning II will be delivered.
The UK’s Lightning II is the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will give the supersonic multi-role stealth aircraft the ability to operate from airbases at land or from aircraft carriers at sea. When it reforms in 2016, 617 Squadron will have both RAF and Royal Navy personnel. The second Lightning II squadron will a Royal Navy one but will be similarly manned by both RAF and RN personnel.
Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, will get 72 additional F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, bringing the eventual total number of the fifth-generation fighters expected there at 144.
The Air Force’s initial decision to establish an F-35 pilot training center here was announced in August 2012, following a three-year process that included an extensive environmental impact analysis.
The Lockheed Martin F-35A, also known as Joint Strike Fighter, intended to be the Air Force’s premier strike aircraft through the first half of the 21st century. It is a multirole fighter that is expected to eventually phase out the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thuderbolt II.
Aircraft are expected to begin arriving at Luke AFB in spring 2014, although exact timing will depend on production schedules. Construction on base to prepare for the aircraft is currently underway, with about US$10 million of US$57 million in projects already completed.
The 2012 Record of Decision cited several reasons why Luke AFB was the service’s top choice for F-35A basing, including facility and ramp capacity, range access, weather and capacity for future growth. The base has been training fighter pilots for more than 70 years.