The UK showcased '100 years of combat airpower' as it marked two major milestones ahead of the retirement of the Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft.
The event at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham on 10 January, which was attended by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and senior service officials, saw the Ministry of Defence (MoD) declare initial operating capability (IOC) Land (L) for its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning Force as well as IOC for the multirole Project Centurion weapons configuration for the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4.
With the soon-to-be-retired Tornado lined up alongside its Typhoon and Lightning successors, the event also featured a full-scale mock-up of the Typhoon that is currently being developed by an industry team headed by BAE Systems.
"As we bid farewell to the RAF's first century, we are setting our sights on the next 100 years. The F-35 jets are ready for operations, a transformed Typhoon has the power to dominate the skies into the 2040s and we continue to look even further into an ambitious future," Williamson said.
Having entered service in 1979, the Tornado is to be withdrawn from service at the end of March. The aircraft's air-to-ground role is being taken on by both the F-35B and Typhoon, IOC L for the former and Project Centurion for the latter are key milestones in the smooth transition from the Tornado to its successors.
IOC L for the F-35B is marked by having nine aircraft ready to deploy on combat operations anywhere around the world, and sees the platform cleared to carry the Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), the MBDA AIM-132 Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), and the Raytheon Paveway IV laser-guided bomb (LGB).
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