So, it’s official: the F-35 will be making its debut international show appearances in the UK this summer.
We had been hearing rumours about this for quite a while from industry, but I wasn’t sure that it would actually happen, due to the tough schedule with getting the short take-off and vertical landing “B” up and ready to achieve initial operating capability with the US Marine Corps during 2015.
Confirmation of the F-35B’s participation at the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough air show in three months’ time came last week, as reported on flightglobal’s defence channel. The US Air Force image below shows a USMC example being flown in STOVL mode by Royal Air Force Sqn Ldr Hugh Nichols at Eglin AFB in February this year.
The following day, RIAT’s organisers revealed that a trio of STOVL jets will be arriving at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire ahead of the 11-13 July show: “two from the US Marine Corps and one destined for the UK”. As with previous appearances involving the F-22 Raptor, they will remain at the USAF-run site throughout their extended stay, with one example to make the short journey to appear at the Hampshire show.
Farnborough International says the F-35B “will be making demonstration flights at both [the] trade show and the public weekend”, which is great news for anyone planning to attend the latter stages of the event: by the time the fee-paying public pitched up in 2012 popular types like the A400M and 787 had already left.
After covering many shows with fairly underwhelming F-35 reporting prospects, it’s great news that we’ll be seeing the type in the air at RIAT and Farnborough. Many eyes will be watching every move, so Lockheed Martin, the US Department of Defense and UK Ministry of Defence must hope that all goes to plan and that the type’s reliability is robust enough to not make headlines for any of the wrong reasons.