The UK’s third Lockheed Martin F-35B short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter arrived at Eglin AFB, Florida, on 25 June.
The British aircraft was flown in from Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant by US Marine Corps pilot Lt Col Roger Hardy on a flight that lasted 90m. “In less than a year, we have taken ownership of our first three aircraft and begun both pilot and engineer training,” says Royal Air Force Group Captain Harv Smyth, the senior UK officer at Eglin AFB. “Today’s arrival of BK-3 is the latest step in delivering the F-35′s unprecedented capability to UK defence.”
This particular aircraft, BK-3 (ZM137), is the last of three UK F-35Bs currently on order, but the country is expected to have a fleet of 48 aircraft in service before 2020. Those 48 jets are expected operate from both land bases and from the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.
The three current UK aircraft are operating in a training capacity as part of the USMC’s VMFAT-501 squadron at Eglin AFB. However, the aircraft will eventually move to Edwards AFB, California, to participate in the F-35′s operational evaluations.