UK F-35 fighter jets head to Cyprus for first overseas exercise

U.K. F-35B Lightning aircraft took off from RAF Marham in Norfolk on Tuesday, May 21 to spend six weeks at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn, the first overseas deployment for the Royal Air Force fighters.

Crew from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will take part in routine training and gain experience in maintaining and flying the F-35 in an unfamiliar environment, RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Ian Townsend said.

“The exercise will also examine all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew that comes with this impressive aircraft, whilst also enhancing its preparedness for its first operational carrier deployment,” Townsend said.

The F-35B is one of three variants of Lockheed Martin’s multirole stealth fighter and features a short takeoff and vertical landing system.

The U.K. chose the F-35B to replace its retiring Harrier II and Tornado GR4 jets and to operate with the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier.

In the U.K. the F-35 is operated by the RAF 617 Squadron, which currently operates 17 aircraft. There are plans to acquire 138 of the fighter over the life of the program.

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