With the F35 still being tested, the next generation of pilots can only dream of flying the future fighter.

Forces News has been speaking to one such pilot at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Flying Officer Samson Hedley is yet to finish his flight training but said the “dream is to fly” the F35 “for real on the frontline.”

He said: “I’ve been flying since I was 16, through the Air Cadets I did a couple of flying scholarships.

“Then I joined the university air squadron and got another 50 hours flying through that – it was a brilliant experience.

“So I’ve got about 80 hours of flying experience on a small Grob Aircraft.

“But now, having joined the Royal Air Force properly and going to start my flight training, it’ll be a road of about four years until I actually get to fly – hopefully – this [the F35] as a frontline aircraft.

“The concept that I might possibly get to fly this hasn’t sunk in yet.

“It would be a dream come true. It’s an absolutely phenomenal aircraft.”


The UK has taken delivery of 9 Lightning aircraft to date which together with a number of military personnel, are stationed in the USA.

In early 2018, 617 Squadron will reform and will be the first RAF Squadron to be equipped with Lightning aircraft.

Yesterday it was reported that the MoD is facing 'hundreds of millions of pounds in hidden costs' for the F35.