The UK’s first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II made its inaugural test flight on 13 April. The aircraft, a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B model named BK-1, underwent a series of functional flight checks during the sortie. Lockheed test pilot Bill Gigliotti was at the controls during the 45min flight.

 F-35 BK-1 debut - Lockheed Martin

© Lockheed Martin

The new aircraft will have to complete a series of company and government test flights before it is accepted by the UK. This particular aircraft will be used for training and operational tests at Eglin AFB, Florida, beginning later this year, Lockheed says. The base is the home of the US Air Force’s 33rd Fighter Wing; the first US training wing for the F-35.


 © Lockheed Martin

The UK’s first F-35B made its inaugural test flight on 13 April

"Not only is this a watershed moment for the Joint Strike Fighter programme, since BK-1 is the first international F-35 to fly, but it also brings us one step closer to delivery of this essential fifth-generation capability for the UK, " said Gp Capt Harv Smyth, the Joint Strike Fighter UK national deputy.

The fact that this first UK F-35 is a B-model aircraft is slightly awkward, however. The UK in late 2010 switched from the STOVL model to the US Navy’s F-35C carrier variant, but its Ministry of Defence is now considering reversing that decision. The cost of refitting at least one of the Royal Navy's future aircraft carriers, which are currently under construction, with catapult launch and arresting gear have been proving to be greater than the UK government had anticipated.