Lockheed Martin has delivered the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) third F-35B Lightning II short takeoff / vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft to Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida, US.
Ferried from the company’s production facility at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base in Texas, US, the aircraft – also designated BK-3 – is scheduled to be used for pilot and maintainer training programmes.
UK Joint Strike Fighter National Deputy group captain Harv Smyth said delivery of the BK-3 represents the latest step in delivering the F-35’s unprecedented capability to the UK military.
"With each passing day, our ‘Lightning’ programme is maturing," he added. "’The ‘Lightning’ truly represents a turning point for UK’s Combat Air capability and will dramatically increase our ability to defend national sovereignty interests and ensure security around the globe."
Britain’s first two F-35B aircraft are currently stationed at Eglin AFB for pilot training programmes.
Intended for use by the US Marine Corps and international partners in the UK and Italy, F-35B is designed to conduct STOVL sorties to facilitate air power projection from amphibious ships, ski-jump aircraft carriers, and expeditionary airfields.
The aircraft will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, which are currently under development, and RAF Marham in Norfolk, UK, from 2018.
Initial operational capability of the aircraft is expected to be declared in 2015.
Primarily manufactured by Lockheed, each British F-35 will feature 15% domestically produced components, including the aft fuselage, fuel system and crew escape system.
More than 500 UK suppliers, including BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Martin-Baker, Selex, Cobham, Ultra Electronics, UTC Actuation Systems and Rolls-Royce, are contributing to the development and sustainment of the F-35, creating several jobs in addition to bringing strong economic benefits to the country.
Image: UK Ministry of Defence’s third F-35B STOVL aircraft. Photo: Lockheed Martin photo by John Wilson.