The fourteenth and final F-35B Lightning II to be delivered to UK this year rolled off the production line and flew into Beaufort, South Carolina, to join the Lightning Fleet which will be operated jointly by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
The F-35 Lightning jets will be able to operate on land or embarked on the UK’s new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.
There are currently some 200 British personnel based at Beaufort testing the aircraft and getting them ready to arrive in the UK next summer as 617 Squadron. Preparations are also being made for first of class flight trials, due to take place on HMS Queen Elizabeth later next year.
“There are more than 500 UK companies in our supply chain who play a vital role in producing every F-35 and we are proud to have delivered the UK’s 14th aircraft on schedule,” Peter Ruddock, chief executive of Lockheed Martin UK said.
The program is on schedule to achieve initial operating capability from land next year with initial operating capability carrier strike in 2020.
In 2018, the aircraft – along with the Navy and RAF pilots and ground crew – will arrive in the UK to officially stand up at RAF Marham in Norfolk. RAF Marham will be the main operating base for the Lightning Force in the UK and from here, they will deploy forward to either embark the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, or operate from deployed operating bases.
According to the Royal Navy, the UK industry will provide approximately 15 percent by value of each F-35 to be built, which are due to total more than 3,000 in number.