British F-35Bs Complete First Operational Missions

The UK's most advanced warplane, the F-35B, has successfully completed its first operational missions. 

The Lightning jets flew alongside Typhoon aircraft over Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Shader - Britain's contribution to the fight against so-called Islamic State.

The first mission took place on 16 June over Syria, with two F-35Bs taking part.

Since then, the jets have flown a further 12 sorties from RAF Akrotiri.

Speaking in Cyprus, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: "The F-35s are the most advanced jets our country has ever possessed and will form the backbone of British air defence for decades to come.

“They have passed every test their training has thrown at them with flying colours and their first real operational mission is a significant step into the future for the UK.”

Watch: F-35Bs a 'big morale boost', says Akrotiri Station Commander Group Captain Chris Snaith

The announcement follows a successful training period in Cyprus on Exercise Lightning Dawn. 

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “It is testament to the outstanding abilities of our dedicated and highly trained air and ground crew that 617 Squadron has achieved this important milestone so quickly and so effectively.”

The aircraft, which can operate from both land and sea, will conduct Operational Tests on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

Watch: Lightning jets an 'extraordinary capability' - Commodore Mike Utley, Commander of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group

The tests are expected to be a key step on the path to the first Carrier Strike Deployment which is planned for 2021. 

The UK currently owns 17 F-35Bs, although the Ministry of Defence (MOD) plans to eventually own 138.

The jets, which cost around £190 million each, will be used by both RAF and Royal Navy pilots.

Watch: inside BAE’s Striker II – the 'most advanced fighter pilot helmet ever made'

Join Our Newsletter


How is Estonia dealing with heightened Russian threat to its security?

RAF airman John Nichol's life-saving decision to eject from burning Tornado jet

Tough three-day course BEFORE starting Royal Marine Commando training