Having marked initial operating capability in 2016, the US Air Force was keen to get its new F-35As out on the road. In April, eight aircraft from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah arrived at RAF Lakenheath, UK, for the USAF F-35’s maiden overseas deployment.


THE US AIR Force is under pressure to prove that its stealthy new superfighter, the F-35A Lightning II, is able to deliver upon the initial operating capability (IOC) that was declared last August. With more than 120 jets delivered and the principal training unit at Luke AFB, Arizona, having notched up its 10,000th F-35 training sortie in March, the Lightning II program is moving ahead at a pace.

The arrival of the first operational unit, the 34th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Rams’ — and its embedded Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) element in the 466th FS — at RAF Lakenheath, UK, this April thus came as no surprise. Six jets pitched up at the Suffolk base with little warning, but to huge fanfare, on April 15, followed by a further pair four days later.

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