Not long after arriving in the UK, the RAF’s first F-35B Lightning II to cross the Atlantic made two symbolic flypasts yesterday. The first was over RAF Marham which will be the type’s primary base when it becomes operational in 2018 while the second was over HMS Queen Elizabeth II, one of two aircraft carriers under construction that will take the F-35 to sea with the Royal Navy. The flypasts were carried out by the RAF example and a USMC example both of which are variants of the Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) version of the F-35.
The two aircraft were accompanied by a BAe Hawk T.1 to photograph the events while over RAF Marham a Panavia Tornado GR.4 (below) joined in the formation. The Tornado remains the RAF’s most potent strike platform until it will finally be replaced by F-35s and strike-oriented Typhoons by the 2020s; nearly 40 years after it entered service.
The commander of the RAF’s F-35 project, Air Commodore Harv Smyth, told ITV news yesterday;
The beauty of the F-35 is that it can do many, many, many missions. Unlike our legacy platforms that may have been fought to be a fighter or a bomber, this airplane can pretty much do any everything, including intelligence gathering. So it’s a jack-of-all trades, but it’s exceptionally good at them all.
(All photos from RAF/Lightning Force HQ)