RAF F-35s Head To Cyprus
Today 6 RAF F-35B aircraft left their base in RAF Marham in the UK to be deployed to RAF Akrotiri. The aircraft belongs to 617 squadron. The deployment marks the first time that the aircraft has left the UK for deployment since becoming operational. The aircraft are being supported by an RAF Voyager tanker in their journey to Cyprus
Former defence secretary Gavin Williamson accounted this deployment back in April 2019. The jets are there to take place in exercise Lighting Dawn. The operation is designed to test the pilots and aircraft in operating in an unfamiliar environment.
The deployment of the aircraft will enable the RAF & the Royal Navy to look at and understand other aspects of deploying these aircraft such as the maintenance in overseas locations and the logistical aspects of a deployment.
The UK currently has 17 F35B aircraft that have been delivered with more arriving on a regular basis. The aircraft will be jointly operated by RAF & Royal Navy crews. The UK plans to order 138 aircraft of the duration of the jets lifetime.
The deployment is not in any way linked to Operation Shader the UK mission against Islamic State or in relation to escalating tensions with Iran. However, the deployment can be looked at in a more symbolic manner as demonstrating the UK has the capabilities & is prepared to base their brand new jets within range of an area of the globe where tensions can escalate quickly.