The United States military and Lockheed Martin have successfully landed three F-35As in England following the first transatlantic flight with United States Air Force’s A-variant. This accomplishment comes two years after an engine fire halted the aircraft from appearing at the Farnborough Air Show for its international debut. Arriving a week before the F-35A’s first appearance in the United Kingdom at the Royal International Air Tattoo, or RIAT, the aircraft landed at approximately 8:00 p.m. at the Royal Air Force Fair-ford.
The other joint strike fighters slated to make an appearance during RIAT — three F-35Bs, including one jet meant for the UK’s Royal Air Force — made the journey across the Atlantic Ocean the day before.
reported Valerie Insinna from Defense News.
We have a huge F-35 contingent here.
said F-35 pilot and commander of the F-35A Lightning II heritage flight team, Major Will Andreotta.
All have been working together for the last six to seven months to make sure that this event is a success, which we have all expectations that it will be.
At around 8:00 a.m. from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, three F-35As from Luke Air Force Base’s 51st Fighter Wing took flight and met with KC-135 and KC-10 tankers over the Atlantic Ocean in order to be refueled. The fourth spare F-35 was returned to the United States midway. Every one of the F-35As were refueled seven times during the transatlantic flight, refilling their tanks via the KC-10 four times as well as via the KC-135 three times. This refueling procedure will likely become the standard way in which these jets will always have enough fuel to land, even in the aircraft malfunctions.
The F-35As will perform a “heritage flight” at RIAT along with F-22s and the P-51 War-bird before departing England on July 13.
The Air Force is permitted to fly the joint strike fighter as a single ship if the War-bird drops out before the demonstration due to a scheduling conflict, Andreotta said. However, because the aircraft has not formally been fielded — initial operational capability could happen as early as August — the service opted to fly the F-35 with legacy aircraft.