The United Kingdom's first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II production jet made its inaugural test flight on 13 April. The aircraft, an F-35B short takeoff/vertical-landing (STOVL) model, flew a series of functional flight checks during the sortie. Lockheed's Bill Gigliotti was at the controls during the 45-minute flight.
"Not only is this a watershed moment for the Joint Strike Fighter program, since BK-1 is the first international F-35 to fly, but it also brings us one step closer to delivery of this essential 5th Generation capability for the U.K., " said Group Captain Harv Smyth, the Joint Strike Fighter UK National Deputy.
The fact this first UK F-35 is a B-model is slightly awkward, however. The UK had earlier switched from the F-35B model jet to the US Navy's F-35C carrier variant, however the UK's Ministry of Defence is considering reversing that decision. The cost of refitting one of that nation's two carrier, which are currently under construction, with catapult launch and arresting gear have been proving to be greater than the British government anticipated.