The United Kingdom’s first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning IIproduction jet made its inaugural test flight on 13 April. The aircraft, anF-35B short takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) model, flew a series of functionalflight checks during the sortie. Lockheed’s Bill Gigliotti was at the controls duringthe 45-minute flight.
The new aircraft will have to complete a series of companyand government tests flights before it is accepted by the UK. This particularaircraft will be used for training and operational tests at Eglin Air ForceBase, Florida, beginning later this year, Lockheed says. The Florida base isthe home of the US Air Force’s 33rd Fighter Wing, the first UStraining wing.
“Not onlyis this a watershed moment for the Joint Strike Fighter program, since BK-1 isthe first international F-35 to fly, but it also brings us one step closer todelivery of this essential 5th Generation capability for the U.K., ” saidGroup Captain Harv Smyth, the Joint Strike Fighter UK National Deputy.
The fact this first UK F-35 is a B-model is slightly awkward,however. The UK had earlier switched from the F-35B model jet to the US Navy’sF-35C carrier variant, however the UK’s Ministry of Defence is consideringreversing that decision. The cost of refitting one of that nation’s twocarrier, which are currently under construction, with catapult launch andarresting gear have been proving to be greater than the British governmentanticipated.