RAF F35B
RAF

RAF F-35B Jets To Exercise With US And France

Two of the RAF's stealth fighter jets will take part in an exercise over the North Sea.

RAF F35B

Four of Britain's F-35 aircraft arrived at RAF Marham in June.

Two of the RAF's F-35B Lightning stealth fighter jets will take part in an exercise over the North Sea later on Tuesday.

They will fly alongside aircraft from the US and French Air Forces, in what is being described as part of an "insurance policy" against global threats.

The supersonic aircraft, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, will be among more than 40 planes participating in the training exercise off the east coast of England.

Aircraft, including the French Rafale fighter and US F-15, will work as a team to counter threats in a training environment.

It is the first time the French Air Force has been involved in Point Blank, which is led by the US Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

A contract worth £160m was awarded this month to make RAF Lakenheath ready to host two squadrons of US F-35 aircraft.

The moment British F-35B aircraft landed at their home base this year.

Aircraft will take off from bases around the country, and the number involved has almost doubled this year.

Air Commodore Jez Attridge said, "The first point of an air force is to be able to defend the country so you have to recognise the threats out there." He added:

"We can see the environment is changing, we can see the challenge that Russia is giving to the international rules-based order so we are the insurance policy."

He went on to say, " We are recognising that through the scenario that we've got, the non-permissive environment, our ability to operate with our allies, the French and the Americans, is paramount. It really is a case of us staying ready so that we can be used if we need to."

Commodore Attridge described the inclusion of the two F-35s as a "huge milestone" which "really shows the progression that Lightning Force is making".

F-35B on HMS Queen Elizabeth
US F-35B jets have been involved in flight trials with HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture MOD).

The first four F-35s touched down at RAF Marham in June, and five more arrived in August.

This month, it was announced that Britain is to more than double its number of F-35B aircraft after ordering a further 17 of the jets.

Wing Commander John Butcher, the officer commanding 617 Squadron, said:

"This particular exercise is different than any ones that we've done previously because of the threats that are out there."

He added: "It's the first time we've done a peer exercise and that we've worked alongside French and US partners."

He said "things are progressing well" towards declaring initial operating capability for the F-35s before December 31.

F-35B aircraft have been involved in flight trials with aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth off the coast of the United States, with American F-35B aircraft flown by British pilots the first to land and take off from the warship.