The United Kingdom’s first Lockheed Martin F-35B JointStrike Fighter (JSF) underwent a functional check flight (FCF) at Eglin AirForce Base, Florida, on December 18 in preparation for Royal Air Force andRoyal Navy pilots starting training in January.
The aircraft was cleared for flight under an interim UKmilitary 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 FCFwithin the next few days, after which both jets will fly as part of the 33rdFighter Wing’s daily operations.
“This will mark yet another milestone in the F-35B JSFImplementing Agreement for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation between theUK and the US,” says Wing Commander Jon Millington, senior UK representative atEglin. “The first two UK pilots are expected to commence flying with VMFAT-501in mid January. Meanwhile, several UK maintainers have already started theiron-the-job training on VMFAT-501, and thus commenced their exciting transitioninto 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 saysthat in addition to the UK, the Navy and Netherlands will begin training at theseaside base in the New Year.
“Having BK-2 take flight Tuesday is special in that it marksthe beginning of integrating our international partners into our flyingoperations,” he says. ”The pace will not slow in 2013 as the US Navy andthe Netherlands look to take flight for the first time at Eglin.”