F-35Bs Set For First Overseas Deployment To Cyprus

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the deployment is an "important milestone" in the jets becoming "fully operational".

The F-35B can operate from both land and sea (Picture: MOD).

The UK's F-35B Lightning stealth fighter jets will start their first overseas deployment to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus later this year.

It will allow RAF and Royal Navy personnel to gain experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said.

The UK currently owns 17 of the multimillion-pound aircraft, with a total of 138 expected to be bought.

An RAF F-35B refueling during Exercise Joint Warrior last week.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world.

"This deployment marks an important milestone in this game-changing aircraft's journey to becoming fully operational."

The F-35 is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings, according to the MOD.

The jets, which are believed to cost £190m each, have the ability to operate from land and sea.

F-35B first landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth
An F-35B takes off from HMS Queen Elizabeth during flight trials last year (Picture: MOD).

F-35s are due to embark on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the autumn, which First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Philip Jones said will be important to "prove their readiness". 

The first of the F-35s touched down in the UK at RAF Marham in June 2018.

In January, it was announced that they are ready to be deployed on operations.