The flight marks the first time the UK’s advanced Joint Strike Fighters have taken flight alongside the trail-blazing stealth aircraft. The sortie was part of integrated flight training exercises with the US bombers which are currently deployed in RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
UK Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster said: “NATO is the bedrock of Euro-Atlantic defence, and those secure foundations continue to be reinforced by the training exercises being completed between the Royal Air Force and our special friends in the US Air Force.”
The deployment of the USAF’s B-2s is a long-planned move with the aircraft being a part of Bomber Task Force Europe. During their deployment, the bombers are set to take part in a range of training exercises.
UK Air Battle Staff chief of staff, Group Captain Richard Yates, said: “We’re delighted that the USAF and 501st Wing Bomber Task Force are here in the UK and that our F-35 Lightning pilots have the chance to fly alongside and train with the B-2 bomber crews. This is the first time that any other country has done this.
“This flying integration builds on the work of Exercise Lightning Dawn in Cyprus and the visit of RAF F-35 Lightning to Italy in June, where in both cases it had the opportunity to prove itself among other NATO allies who also operate the aircraft.”
Both the F-35 and B-2 are fifth-generation aircraft equipped with advanced stealth capabilities allowing them to penetrate adversary airspace undetected. The B-2, which entered service in 1997, has a sweeping low-drag design which gives it exceptional range and helps to subdue its radar signature.
US Air Force Bomber Task Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Schoeneberg, said: “Our Royal Air Force friends are integral to the 509th Bomb Wing mission. The beauty of our partnerships is that we get to understand how they see the world. Working alongside international fifth-generation aircraft provides unique training opportunities for us, bolsters our integration capabilities, and showcases the commitment we have to our NATO alliance.”
The B-2 saw its combat debut in skies above Kosovo dropping 11% of all the bombs used in the conflict. The bomber’s range was showed off in the conflict when half a dozen B-2s flew a non-stop return trip from Missouri to Kosovo.
RAF Fairford plays a key role in US-UK defence collaboration, routinely hosting aircraft from the USAF. The deployments of US aircraft to the base is largely to support NATO operations across Europe and strengthen the two countries’ ongoing partnerships.
The F-35 is due to become the main aircraft of the UK Royal Air Force flying alongside the Eurofighter Typhoon. The advanced fighter will also form the centre of the Royal Navy’s air capabilities with the fighter set to deploy on the HMS Queen Elizabeth. The UK plans to purchase a total of 137 F-35B aircraft, which are equipped with short take-off vertical landing (STOVL) capabilities at a cost of nearly £80m per jet.