The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has practised the deployment of its Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning combat aircraft from austere operating locations.
The UK intends to field its short take-off and vertical landing F-35B in a similar expeditionary manner as it did previously with the Harrier. (Janes/Patrick Allen)
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, noted on 11 June that an F-35B from 617 Squadron currently deployed as part of the Royal Navy's Carrier Strike Group 2021 (CSG21) had practised ground refuelling from an Italian Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules the day before.
“Agile combat employment in action! Yesterday, a 617 Squadron F-35B refuelled from an Italian Air Force C-130 for the first time in an austere location,” the chief announced from his official Twitter account.
The disclosure that the RAF was undertaking austere exercises with the F-35B came some three years after the Lightning Force Commander, Air Commodore David Bradshaw, told
that the service was very much looking to build on its long experience of operating the BAE Systems Harrier in an expeditionary fashion by developing a similar concept of operations for the F-35B.
“It won't be as carefree as the Harrier, because obviously you have a lot more [advanced systems and skin surfaces] going on with the F-35, but it is certainly something we are looking to do,” Air Cdre Bradshaw said in 2018.