RAF F-35 fighter jets in North Sea exercise with US and French allies

Two of the RAF’s F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jets will take part in an exercise over the North Sea alongside aircraft from the US and French air forces, forming part of an “insurance policy” against global threats.

The supersonic aircraft, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, will be among more than 40 planes participating in the Point Blank training exercise off the east coast of England on Tuesday.

Aircraft from the three air forces, including the French Rafale fighter and US F-15, will work as a team against “threats” in the training environment.


It is the first time the French air force has been involved in Point Blank, which is led by the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk.

Aircraft will take off from bases around the country, and the number involved has almost doubled this year.

Air Commodore Jez Attridge, of the RAF, described the air force as an “insurance policy”.

“We always consider what the environment is,” he said.

“The point of the air force, the first point of an air force is to be able to defend the country so you have to recognise the threats out there.

“We can see the environment is changing, we can see the challenge that Russia is giving to the international rules-based order so we are the insurance policy and we are recognising that through the scenario that we’ve got, the non-permissive environment, and our ability to operate with our allies, the French and the Americans, is paramount.”

He added: “It really is a case of us staying ready so that we can be used if we need to.

“It’s a great insurance policy.”

He described the inclusion of the two F-35s as a “huge milestone” which “really shows the progression that Lightning Force is making”.

The first four F-35s touched down at RAF Marham in June, and five more arrived in August.

Wing Commander John Butcher, the officer commanding 617 squadron, said: “This particular exercise is different than any ones that we’ve done previously because of the threats that are out there.

“It’s the first time we’ve done a peer exercise and that we’ve worked alongside French and US partners.”

He said “things are progressing well” towards declaring initial operating capability for the F-35s before December 31.