On the 6th June the United Kingdom’s first four F35-B Lightning II’s arrived at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Built by Lockheed Martin, the fighter jets represent the future of British air power and will be operated by both the Royal Air Force but also by the Royal Navy from the decks of the two new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.
Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots have been training in the US, at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, with the new supersonic fighters for several months and the much anticipated trans-Atlantic flight finally took place on the 6th June after delays and postponements due to the weather.
Britain has committed to procuring 138 F-35Bs. Gavin Williamson, the UK’s defence minister, said, “It’s about giving us a capability that far extends beyond any of our adversaries, and also absolutely critical in terms of the capabilities of the aircraft carrier.”
The arrival of the first flight of Lightning II’s was two months ahead of schedule. RAF Marham has undergone a £250 million refit in anticipation of becoming home of 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron which will operate the RAF’s F-35s.
Royal Air Force photographers captured some great shots during the flight, sharing them on twitter:
She's on her way, the first 4 @RoyalAirForce @LockheedMartin F35-B Lightning II aircraft are about to arrive at their new home, @RAFMarhamMedia after transiting from @USMC @MCASBeaufortSC. The transit was captured by photographers based with the @PhotoACSSU, @RAFHalton. pic.twitter.com/lfVmYrlHyi
— RAF Photographer (@RafPhotog) June 6, 2018
Supported by three Voyager tankers and an Atlas transport the F-35s made the arduous 6,440km (4,000 mile) journey in just over eight hours. 617 Squadron’s, Wing Commander John Butcher said: “It was a good flight across from the United States, the weather was in our favour and it felt absolutely brilliant bringing the jets back here today.” Head of the RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier described the flight as ‘historic’, describing the new aircraft as “the future of our air power for decades to come, so this is a tremendously important day.”
The four fighters are part of the UK’s initial £9.1bn order for 48 F-35s. Five more F-35Bs are expected to arrive from the US at RAF Marham by the beginning of August.