Lightning struck no less than three times at Fairford airbase in the UK on Friday 8 July, during the world’s biggest airshow that is also known as the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). Three F-35 Lightning II were seen flying, but all but the British jet failed to impress. It takes more than a couple of fly passes to really ‘wow!’ an audience, which must have been what the UK Ministry of Defence and Lockheed Martin were actually hoping for at Fairford.
Yes, the vertical landing of the UK F-35B was a sight to behold, but it was awkward to witness a United States Marines Corps (USMC) F-35B earlier on Friday for what was the type’s very first actual public display in the UK – only to see it fly by unassumingly a couple of times beneath a USMC KC-130J tanker aircraft and land only minutes after it took off. Even the associated commentary was dull and uninspiring.
The US Air Force F-35A from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, did slightly better with an afterburner take off followed by formation fly passes with the true star of the show, which was the US Air Force F-22 Raptor display from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. That’s how you wow an audience.
The other star of the show, the Eurofighter Typhoon, did likewise and actually hit more than three times. Four solo Typhoons displays feature in the airshow program, along with a dozen or so jets in the static display. Very impressive was a full blown display by a combat configured aircraft – bombs and missiles attached – by a BAE Systems test pilot.
The demonstration by the UK F-35B made up for some of the lacklustre Lightning II appearances earlier in the day, but again the deliverance and commentary was about as exciting as watching paint dry. The British Lightning II will also be present at next week’s Farnborough International Airshow. At Fairford, Lockheed Martin invited the media to learn all their is learn about the F-35. The Norwegians gave a full update on the status of their program.
Perhaps the Dutch indeed spoiled RIAT’s and Lockheed Martin’s party when they flew two F-35As to the Netherlands in May and spectacularly displayed them in a air power demonstration, complete with pyro technics – or perhaps we are spoiled. But the same can’t be said for the British taxpayers at Fairford, who pay a lot of money for RIAT airshow tickets, not to mention their new fighter jet that is the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. Both deserved better.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest