NEWS

35-B fighters land in UK's Cyprus base for training, tests

Petros Karadjias/AP

TAGS: Cyprus, Defense

Six F35-B Lightning warplanes, the UK's newest fighter, arrived Tuesday at a British air base on Cyprus for training and a systems test in the aircraft's first overseas deployment.

The jets from 617 Squadron, flown by three British Royal Navy and three Royal Air Force pilots, touched down at RAF Akrotiri for what officials said will be a six-week deployment on the eastern Mediterranean island nation as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn.

RAF Akrotiri Station Commander Christopher Snaith said the deployment will let pilots put the planes through their paces, test logistics and sharpen ground crew training.

Snaith said the training aims to prepare the aircraft for its first deployment aboard the UK's new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and to develop its strike capability.

There are no current plans to have the aircraft conduct combat missions, said Snaith.

Flight training will take place over waters south of Cyprus and won't involve any weapons.

Snaith said RAF Akrotiri was selected for training because it's far away enough from the UK to "stretch logistics," but familiar enough to UK pilots, some of whom have flown out of the air base before.

[AP]

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