Joint Strike Fighter

GOV.UK // May 20, 2013

A small team of UK personnel are learning all about the fifth-generation stealth aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

So far, Britain has taken delivery of 2 Lightning II multi-role Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The pair of STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) variants of the F-35 fast jet are currently based at Eglin US Air Force Base in Florida and, from 2018, will be landing on the deck of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carrier.

At Eglin, 2 pilots, one Royal Navy, the other RAF, and 13 ground crew are working alongside their US Marine Corps colleagues learning all they can about maintaining the aircraft and how to fly the platforms to get the best out of them.

Although the pilots, Lieutenant Commander Ian Tidball and Squadron Leader Frankie Buchler, have only been able to practise on the aircraft for a matter of weeks, they are already singing the platform’s praises.

Selected because of his STOVL experience landing Sea Harriers on flight decks, Lieutenant Commander Tidball said.

“The Lightning II is a great aircraft to fly. It’s extremely responsive with a lot of thrust. The fly-by-wire system makes it simple to fly which means the pilot is freed up to concentrate on the objectives of the mission.”

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