[Avionics Today April 18, 2014] This summer's Royal International Air Tattoo show in Fairford will feature the first flight of the F-35 Lightning II, according to an announcement from the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD).
The UK's first F-35 Lightning II during a test flight. Photo, courtesy of Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin's next-generation fighter jet has faced several delays to reaching the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) milestone, although the aerospace and defense manufacturer now states that the U.S. Marine Corps will declare IOC in 2015 while the U.S. Air Force and Navy will declare IOC in 2016 and 2018.
According to the MOD, nearly 15 percent of every F-35 jet is built in the U.K. The Royal International Air Tattoo show will be the first time the combat aircraft has flown outside of the United States.
"The US and the UK have worked closely together on the F-35 project from the beginning. We are the only country that is a Level 1 partner in the project," said U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.
The MOD currently has three F-35s based in the U.S. that are undergoing training with Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots.
Lockheed also released a statement prior to the MOD's announcement indicating that the F-35 Lightning II fleet has surpassed 15,00 flight hours, a major milestone for the program. Through the first week of April, operational F-35s had flown 8,050 hours while System Development and Demonstration aircraft had accumulated 7,123 flight hours.
“While the fleet continues to train, we are actively flight testing the software and mission systems that will enable the Marine Corps to declare Initial Operational Capability next year as planned,” said J.D. McFarlan, vice president for F-35 test and verification at Lockheed Martin.
In addition to the Royal International Air Tattoo show, the F-35 will also fly during the same month at the Farnborough International Air Show.