UK F-35B Lightning aircraft arrived in Cyprus on Tuesday afternoon after taking off from RAF Marham in Norfolk, to spend six weeks at RAF Akrotiri, the UK Ministry of Defence said.
UK F-35 jets landed in @BFCyprus @RAFAkrotiri this afternoon on their first overseas flight to conduct valuable development training and to exercise all aspects of moving to a forward deployed location, including logistics, maintenance and flying @UKinCyprus #F35UK #britishbases pic.twitter.com/de0JluE2SJ
— BFCyprus (@bfcyprus) May 21, 2019
The jets will participate in exercise Lightning Dawn, which is the first overseas deployment for the RAF fighters.
Their crew will take in routine training and gain experience in maintaining and flying the F-35 in an unfamiliar environment, RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Ian Townsend said.
“It’s just over 76 years since 617 Squadron formed to conduct ground-breaking operations, they are once again called upon to take a capability forwards for the first time. The exercise in Akrotiri will prove our ability to operate F-35 away from RAF Marham and allow us to learn the lessons of operating the air system whilst on deployment,” Townsend added.
F-35 Lightning aircraft from 617 Sqn left @RAFMarhamMedia for Cyprus this morning to take part in its first overseas training exercise.
— Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForce) May 21, 2019
Owned and operated by the RAF, the Lightning Force is jointly manned by both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. This training exercise will allow personnel from both services to gain vital experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment.
The exercise will also examine all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew that comes with this impressive aircraft, whilst also enhancing its preparedness for its first operational carrier deployment.
Station Commander RAF Akrotiri, Group Captain Christopher Snaith, said: “It is a privilege to welcome 617 Squadron and the F-35B Lightning aircraft to RAF Akrotiri. This is the first overseas training deployment of the aircraft and marks another key milestone for the aircraft in UK service.
“Akrotiri has been home for British Forces personnel for nearly 70 years; we are hugely grateful for the support and hospitality from the people of Cyprus and I know that all those involved in the F-35 programme, both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, are delighted to be here.”
According to the UK Ministry of Defence, the Lightning, as the aircraft is known in the UK, is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings. With the ability to operate from land and sea, the F-35 forms a vital part of delivering a ‘carrier strike’ capability to the UK when combined with Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
The UK currently owns 17 F-35B aircraft with the reformed 617 Sqn arriving back in the UK last year. More jets are due in Britain over the coming years, and there is an overall plan to procure 138 aircraft over the life of the programme.
The F-35 is the world’s largest defence programme at over $1.3 trillion, with UK industry providing 15% by value of every one of over 3,000 jets set for the global order book. That makes the economic impact greater than if we were building 100% of all 138 aircraft which we intend to buy. The programme has already generated $12.9 billion worth of orders and at peak production will support thousands of British manufacturing and engineering jobs.