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October 11, 2021

UK F-35B Lightnings conduct air-to-air refuelling from US Navy combat

This is the first time that F-35B Lightnings were refuelled from a fighter jet of the US Navy.

Combat aircraft F-35B Lightnings, which are embarked on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth, have undertaken ‘buddy-buddy’ refuelling from a US Navy fighter jet for the first time.

The F-35B Lightnings, which are the jets of 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF), undertook the air-to-air refuelling from the US Navy’s F/A-18E Super Hornet.

As part of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 21 deployment to the Indo-Pacific Region, the jets of the RAF Marham-based 617 Squadron are currently embarked on board the Royal Navy aircraft carrier.

The refuelling took place during exercises in the Pacific region with US Navy aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson.

Flown by pilots of RAF and Royal Navy, the F-35B Lightnings regularly undertakes air-to-air refuelling from RAF Voyager aircraft. However, this represents the first time that the F-35B Lightnings were refuelled from a fighter jet of the US Navy.

In addition to featuring external fuel tanks, the Super Hornet has air-to-air refuelling equipment, which offered scope to undertake this training and boost the interoperability of the aircraft carriers between the UK and the US.

While participating in the exercise, the 617 Squadron also undertook a joint fly past with the jets of the US Navy and US Marine Corps (USMC) over the total fleet of carriers and their escorts.

The UK CSG is currently readying for the return journey of the deployment through the Indian Ocean, Middle East and the Mediterranean.

During its return journey of the deployment, the group will undertake further exercises with other countries.

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