The United Kingdom's first Lockheed Martin F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) underwent a functional check flight (FCF) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on December 18 in preparation for Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots starting training in January.
The aircraft was cleared for flight under an interim UK military flight test permit and was flown by US Marine Corps Lt Col Tye "OD" Bachmann from VMFAT-501. The second British F-35B is expected complete its FCF within the next few days, after which both jets will fly as part of the 33rd Fighter Wing's daily operations.
"This will mark yet another milestone in the F-35B JSF Implementing Agreement for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation between the UK and the US," says Wing Commander Jon Millington, senior UK representative at Eglin. "The first two UK pilots are expected to commence flying with VMFAT-501 in mid January. Meanwhile, several UK maintainers have already started their on-the-job training on VMFAT-501, and thus commenced their exciting transition into living the life of a US Marine."
Lt Cdr Ian Tidbal and Sqd Ldr Frankie Buchler. USAF Photo by Maj Karen Roganov
33rd Fighter Wing commander Col Andrew Toth says that in addition to the UK, the Navy and Netherlands will begin training at the seaside base in the New Year.
"Having BK-2 take flight Tuesday is special in that it marks the beginning of integrating our international partners into our flying operations," he says. "The pace will not slow in 2013 as the US Navy and the Netherlands look to take flight for the first time at Eglin."