Four additional F-35B Lightning II advanced fighter jets have arrived home to RAF Marham in Norfolk on Friday evening in a major milestone for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
— Ministry of Defence ?? (@DefenceHQ) August 3, 2018
With the aid of air-to-air refueling by RAF Voyager (Airbus A330 MRTT) aircraft, the F-35B Lightning II aircraft flew non-stop across the Atlantic from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (MCAS Beaufort) in South Carolina where UK pilots have been undergoing intensive training on the aircraft in partnership with their USMC counterparts.
With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. More than a fighter jet, the F-35’s ability to collect, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier enhancing all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace.
The programme has also greatly benefitted UK industry with more than 500 British companies involved in the supply chain. Around 15 percent by value of each of the more than 3,000 F-35 aircraft projected on the programme is manufactured in the UK, and to date the programme has generated about US $13 billion in contracts for British suppliers.
In June this year, the first four F-35Bs arrived at RAF Marham two months ahead of schedule allowing the UK’s Lightning Force to focus on achieving initial operational capability (IOC) by the end of 2018. The first flight trials with HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the Royal Navy’s first Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, is expected later this year.
Comprehensive sustainment support for the UK’s fleet of F-35 aircraft based at RAF Marham will be provided by Lightning Team UK, which represents the blended industry team of BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce. Around £550m has been invested in RAF Marham as part of a major programme to get the base ready to house the new jets, including a facilities upgrade, resurfaced runways and new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically.
The UK currently has 15 F-35B aircraft in total, the remainder of which are stationed at MCAS Beaufort or Edwards Air Force Base in California, where they are involved in testing and training. Around the world, there are now nearly 300 F-35 aircraft operating from 15 bases globally and the programme has achieved more than 140,000 flight hours.