The UK has met its initial operational capability target for the Lockheed Martin F-35B, with nine examples assigned to the Royal Air Force's 617 Sqn now deemed "ready to be deployed on operations around the world".
Announced on 10 January, the Lightning programme development came less than one year after the UK's first short take-off and vertical landing aircraft arrived at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Seventeen examples have so far been delivered, including assets supporting pilot training and initial operational test and evaluation work in the USA, from a total UK programme commitment for 138 F-35s.
In addition to confirming the F-35B's operational availability, defence secretary Gavin Williamson also has announced that the RAF's Eurofighter Typhoon fleet is now available for operations armed with MBDA Brimstone air-to-surface and Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
Prepared via a three-year, £425 million ($452 million) Project Centurion activity involving Eurofighter partner company BAE Systems, the combination will replace the ground-attack capability currently delivered by the RAF's Panavia Tornado GR4s, the last of which will be retired in late March.