Stealth fighter jets set for first overseas deployment later this year

The UK’s F-35B Lightning stealth fighter jets will start their first overseas deployment in Cyprus later this year.

It will allow RAF and Royal Navy personnel to gain experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The UK currently owns 17 of the multimillion-pound aircraft, and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson pledged that a total of 138 will be bought.

He said: “These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world.

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

“This deployment marks an important milestone in this game-changing aircraft’s journey to becoming fully operational.”

The home base of the F-35s is RAF Marham in Norfolk and they will be deployed to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

The jets’ first embarkation on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, due to happen in the autumn, will also be an important milestone to “prove their readiness”, said Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC DL, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff.

An F-35 jet at RAF Marham
An F-35 jet at RAF Marham

The F-35 is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings, the MoD said.

It has the ability to operate from land and sea.

The first of the F-35s touched down in the UK in June 2018, and it was announced in January that they are ready to be deployed on operations.