The British Royal Air Force’s (RAF) F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft have conducted training exercises with the US F-15E Strike Eagle and French Air Force Rafales for the first time.
Training was carried out over the airspace of East Anglia and the North Sea. It is part of Exercise Point Blank led by the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk.
The exercise saw the participation of two F-35s from the RAF’s 617 Squadron with support from more than 40 other aircraft, including RAF Typhoon, Hawk and Voyager aircraft.
During the exercise, the three airforces worked together in a peer-to-peer scenario to improve operational capability.
In addition, pilots of the F-35s were provided with an opportunity to carry on developing procedures to integrate fourth and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
RAF Joint Force Air Component commander air commodore Jez Attridge said: “The first point of an airforce is to be able to defend the country so you have to recognise the threats out there.
“We can see the environment is changing, we can see the challenge that Russia is giving to the international rules-based order so we are the insurance policy and we are recognising that through the scenario that we’ve got, the non-permissive environment, and our ability to operate with our allies, the French and the Americans, is paramount.
“It really is a case of us staying ready so that we can be used if we’re needed. It’s a great insurance policy.”
The exercise involved the deployment of simulated air defence systems to test the pilots’ performance in air-to-air and air-to-surface conflict environments.
RAF 617 Squadron wing commander John Butcher noted that the F-35s are expected to reach initial operating capability by the end of the year.
Exercise Point Blank is a recurring large-force exercise designed to increase tactical proficiency of the US Department of Defense and the UK Ministry of Defence forces stationed within the UK and Europe.
More than 20 Point Blank exercises have been conducted since 2006.