Feb 12, 2015
RAF First F-35 Unit '17 (Reserve) Squadron' Stands Up Operations At Edwards AFB
The joint RAF-Royal Navy operation will conduct operational testing and evaluation of the F-35B using three of the U.K’s initial four aircraft. Although initial operational capability (IOC) for the RAF is targeted for the end of 2018, the test fleet is expected to remain at Edwards to continue evaluation of future weapons and systems upgrades until the end of their lives.
Testing is already underway with the first U.K. aircraft, BK-1, following its trans-continental ferry flight from Eglin AFB, Florida, where initial pilot and maintenance crew training has been taking place. The second U.K. F-35B, BK-2, is due to arrive at Edwards by early March, with a third test aircraft, BK-4, expected to arrive in early 2016.
A fourth British F-35B, BK-3, has been transferred from Eglin to Beaufort Pilot Training Center at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, where it is operated as part of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501).
The U.K’s "Lightning Force" has a maintenance crew made up equally of RAF and Navy personnel.