23 May 2019

F-35 Lightning aircraft deployed for first overseas exercise

F-35B Lightning aircraft from the 617 squadron were deployed for their first overseas exercise in Cyprus.

Several F-35B Lightning aircraft from 617 Squadron, ‘The Dambusters,’ flew from their base at RAF Marham in Norfolk to spend six weeks at RAF Akrotiri as part of their first overseas exercise. The Lightning, as the aircraft is known in the UK, is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings.

The training, known as Exercise Lightning Dawn, aimed to allow personnel to experience flying and maintaining the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment. All aspects of transferring the F-35 to a new location were examined, including logistics, maintenance, and the sustainment of equipment and crew.

Station Commander RAF Akrotiri, Group Captain Christopher Snaith, said: “It is a privilege to welcome 617 Squadron and the F-35B Lightning aircraft to RAF Akrotiri. This is the first overseas training deployment of the aircraft and marks another key milestone for the aircraft in UK service.”

“Akrotiri has been home for British Forces personnel for nearly 70 years; we are hugely grateful for the support and hospitality from the people of Cyprus and I know that all those involved in the F-35 programme, both Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, are delighted to be here.”

“What is important now is to maximise the opportunities that being in Cyprus presents and ensure we learn the lessons from what I know will be an incredibly successful deployment.”

F-35 forms a large part of delivering a ‘carrier strike’ capability to the UK when combined with Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. The UK currently owns 17 of the aircraft with more expected to be produced in the future.

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