The first overseas flight for the Lightning Force’s F-35 stealth fighters will take place in the eastern Mediterranean when they are expected to touch down in Akrotiri this summer.
Men and women of the Lightning Force will head for their two-month training in the eastern Mediterranean, ahead of their first spell of training aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth scheduled for this coming autumn in the United States.
Earlier this year, after four decades of service, the Tornado GR4 were retired as the Royal Air Force was expected to bring more advanced aircraft with modern capabilities for a more powerful presence in the skies.
According to Lieutenant Commander Adam Hogg, 617 Squadron's Executive Officer who was quoted on the Royal Navy’s website, the Cyprus-bound F-35B jets will not only perform a series of tests but will also include some live firing.
“The hard work will have been worth it when the first aircraft touches down in Akrotiri, marking a new era of Fixed Wing aviation for the RN and following in the footsteps of 800 NAS’s final Harrier deployment to Cyprus almost a decade ago.”
The deployment will also help pilots and the teams behind them to gain valuable insights into all aspects of moving the F-35 aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and personnel training required for getting the Lightning off the ground.
As soon as the Mediterranean deployment is complete, the “hover-and-out” fighters with radar-evading stealth technology and supersonic speeds will join the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the United States in early autumn.
The UK reportedly intends to buy more than 130 Lightnings, with a second F-35 squadron expected to be formed in the next decade.