Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II (ZM145) from the Royal Air Force at the RIAT 2018, RAF Fairford (United Kingdom)
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters undergoing final development and testing by the United States. The fifth generation combat aircraft is designed to perform ground attack and air defense missions. The F-35 has three main models: the F-35A Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical-Landing (STOVL) variant,
and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant. On 31 July 2015, the first squadron was declared ready for deployment after intensive testing by the United States Marines. On 2 August 2016, the United States Air Force declared its first squadron of F-35As was combat-ready. The F-35 is descended from the X-35, which was the winning design of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.
It is being designed and built by an aerospace industry team led by Lockheed Martin. Other major F-35 industry partners include Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems. The F-35 took its first flight on 15 December 2006.
In British service the aircraft will be known only as "Lightning", losing its II (it will actually be the RAF's third Lightning, after the Lockheed P-38 and English Electric Lightning). The first frontline Lightning unit, 617 Squadron "Dambusters" is expected to arrive at RAF Marham in spring/summer 2018 and continue working towards achieving Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in December 2018. The Lightning Operational Conversion Unit (OCU),
207 Squadron, will stand up at RAF Marham on July 2019, followed by a second operational unit, 809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), in 2023.
Trials aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth should also commence in 2018, building towards full carrier strike capability in 2020.
The last of the initial 48 Lightnings is expected for delivery in January 2025, by which time a schedule for the remaining 90 aircraft,
and the formation of further squadrons, will no doubt be in place.
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is the world's largest military air show, held annually over the third weekend in July,
usually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England in support of The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust.
The show typically attracts a total of 150.000 to 160.000 spectators over the weekend.
The 2018 Air Tattoo will reflect the 100th anniversary of the RAF with a commemoration
and celebration of a century of service to the United Kingdom and its allies.