UK's first F-35 Lightning II starts operational testing in US
The UK Royal Air Force's (RAF) 17(R) Squadron have started testing and evaluation of the country's first F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US.
The tests will demonstrate the aircraft's efficiency and operational capability.
RAF chief technician Daniel Foulkes said: "The advance in technology has really helped with the maintenance of the F-35.
"We're using computers now whereas before we were relying on using usual manual methods. So it's sped up a lot of the testing and made the whole process more efficient.
"We've spent a long time getting UK processes and regulations in place so that we can receive the aircraft and start testing the aircraft ourselves."
17(R) Squadron member and Royal Navy petty officer Gary Lister said: "It has a myriad of sensors and technologies, which means every aspect of the aircraft is constantly being tested.
"This means when snags are found, they aren't just fixed, but analysed and scrutinised to help future fault diagnosis and streamline the maintenance effort."
The operational testing of F-35B at Edwards will enable the squadron to put it through its paces at an operational tempo.
The JSF is scheduled to carry out operations aboard the Royal Navy's two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, from 2020.
Image: The F35 aircraft at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida, US. Photo: Crown copyright.