Marine-RAF Team Bring Lightning to United Kingdom
Marines with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One and a Royal Air Force pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) successfully conducted the first ever trans-Atlantic flight of the F-35B Lightning II, July 29, 2016.
Marine Lt. Col. Richard Rusnok and Maj. Jack Cronan, along with Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols piloted three F-35B’s from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina across the Atlantic Ocean, landing at Royal Air Force Base Fairford, Gloucester, England.
“Our main focus is supporting the [United Kingdom’s] introduction and service of the F-35B,” said Rusnok, a pilot with VMX-1.
The flight took more than eight hours and required the F-35B’s to be refueled by two KC-10 Extenders, an aerial refueling tanker aircraft.
“It’s always a long day, it’s always tiring but it’s a great feeling of achievement when you get the [aircraft] to a different country,” said Nichols.
The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation stealth multi-role fighter aircraft, capable of conducting ground attack and air defense missions, and short-takeoff and vertical landings.
“The arrival of Lightning in the UK is an important step toward our delivery of operational capability with the UK's first ever stealth fighter aircraft,” said Air Commodore Harvey Smyth, the Royal Air Force’s F-35 force commander.