In a major step forward in Britain's use of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, engineers, ground crew and pilots from the RAF and Royal Navy have begun flying and maintaining the jets independently from their US colleagues.
17 (Reserve) Squadron has begun operational testing of the UK’s first F-35B, 100 years after the unit was first established.
The squadron, which was first formed in 1915, will be responsible for all the testing and evaluation of the UK’s first F-35 Lightning II.
Over the last 100 years, 17 (R) Sqn has seen action in Egypt, Burma and Japan and the Squadron has previously flown Hurricanes, Spitfires and Tornados.
Its Commanding Officer, Wing Commander James Beck, said:
“For a pilot, it’s a dream come true to fly from Edwards Air Force Base. It’s where Chuck Yeager [legendary US Air Force pilot] flew from and now we’re the first nation outside of America to fly the F-35 independently under our own regulations.”
The UK has taken delivery of three F-35B jets to date, which are based at at a number of locations in the US.
An order was placed for a fourth UK aircraft in September 2013 which will be delivered early in 2016.
The UK also has a further four aircraft on order, which will form part of the UK’s first operational Squadron, which will transition to RAF Marham in Norfolk in 2018, and which will become their Main Operating Base.
For a demonstration of what the F-35B can do, have a look at the video below: