RAF 100 Flypast

Coverage of the RAF centenary flypast of Buckingham Palace including the F-35B Lightning II.

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Royal Navy’s new carriers will deploy to Pacific to exercise freedom of navigation

HMS QE 1

British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, has told a Washington think tank that despite Britain’s current focus on the Middle East combating Daesh in Iraq and Syria there will be increased focus on the Pacific region as the two new carriers become operational around 2020. Speaking at an event in Washington attended by the Japanese ambassador to the US, Kenchiro Sasae, he said that Britain will play its part in maintaining the security and stability of the Pacific region with emphasis on maintaining the right to freedom of navigation.

Certainly, as we bring our two new aircraft carriers on stream in 2020 and as we renew and update our defence forces, they will be seen in the Pacific…And we absolutely share the objective of this U.S. administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open.

The first step in this renewed British military interest in the region has already been taken. In October this year, four RAF Typhoon FGR.2s from No.II(AC) Squadron landed at Misawa Air Base in Northern Japan to participate in Exercise Guardian North 16 with Japanese and US forces. The aircraft then flew to South Korea for exercises with Korean and US forces.

The Japanese ambassador added that during a meeting held at the Pentagon in Washington at the time of the exercise, the UK agreed to increase the level of naval cooperation with Japan and the US in the South and East China Sea as tensions continue with Beijing regarding territorial claims in the region. The ambassador said that Tokyo welcomed Britain’s increased focus on maintaining regional stability.

Darroch’s words come on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump taking up office in Washington on a pledge to build up the US military. Regarding China whom Trump has been deeply critical of, his advisers have said that the new US President will pursue a policy of “peace through strength” in the Pacific to challenge China’s efforts to assert its own authority over the region.

 

F-35s conduct flypast of carriers and RAF Marham

F-35 Lightning II Queen Elizabeth 2 aircraft carrierNot 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.

F-35 Lightning II Panavia Tornado GR.4 RAF

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)

 

Refuelling trials and new missile order for British F-35 program

 

RAF Voyager F-35 Lightning IIAnother milestone in the UK’s F-35 acquisition program was reached this month with the 5th generation fighter making the first five out of twenty planned simulated refuellings from an RAF Voyager tanker. The refuelling trials are being carried out from NAS Patuxent River and will continue through until mid-June by which time the aircraft should be cleared to refuel from all three of the tanker’s drogues (two wing positions and one central fuselage position).

The first trials have been “dry” connections meaning no fuel was transferred between the aircraft but future trials will include “wet” transfers which once complete will help bring the aircraft closer to becoming declared operational with the RAF and then later the Royal Navy. The UK is currently committed to 138 F-35B Lightning IIs which have Vertical/Short Take-off and Landing (V/STOL) capabilities. As well as replacing the RAF’s ageing Tornado fleet the aircraft will also form the backbone of the Royal Navy’s carrier force.

News of the successful completion of the trials comes in the same week that the MoD  awarded a £411 million contract to develop a new missile tailored for carriage by the F-35 in British service. Spear 3 is from the same family of weapons as Brimstone which has been proving its worth in Syria and Iraq being carried by RAF Tornado GR.4s and Typhoon FGR.4s. Compared to Brimstone the weapon has a larger warhead, greater range and improved targeting capabilities. Unlike Tornado or Typhoon, the F-35 will have the option to carry the weapon internally thus decreasing its radar cross section which limits an enemy’s ability to detect the aircraft.