- Six RAF F-35Bs have flown to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus
- The training mission is the type's first overseas deployment in UK service
British Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning combat aircraft flew to the Royal Air Force (RAF) base on Cyprus on 21 May for the type's first overseas deployment in UK service.
The contingent of six F-35Bs took off from their home base at RAF Marham in Norfolk and flew non-stop to RAF Akrotiri with support from an RAF Airbus A330 air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
According to an announcement by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 21 May, the aircraft will be participating in Exercise 'Lightning Dawn' for six weeks. "This training exercise will allow personnel to gain vital experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment," said the MoD. "The training 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."
An RAF spokesman told Jane's on 22 May that it "did not currently plan" to use the F-35s in Operation 'Shader' combat missions over the Middle East during their time in Cyprus, adding that the deployment was a "long-planned training exercise that is not linked to the recent tension between the US and Iran".
A UK defence source said that if any crisis should develop in the Middle East in the near future, the RAF's F-35Bs could be part of any UK response. "If something kicks off then the F-35Bs are good to go but the current plan is that this is just a training deployment," the source told Jane's .
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