British F-35 stealth jets fly to America for huge war game ahead of exercise with HMS Queen Elizabeth

ROYAL Navy stealth jets, which will one day defend Britain’s two new giant aircraft carriers, have flown from their airbase to take part in a major war game in America.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 2:11 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 10:23 am

F-35s from 617 Squadron have left their home at RAF Marham for Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to join the drill.

Named Exercise Red Flag, the multi-national combat training serial is conducted on the vast bombing ranges of the Nevada Test and Training Area.

It is the first time a British squadron of the hi-tech warplanes will have joined the exercise, which will see them flying alongside a variety of aircraft from other nations.

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An F35B taking off from RAF Marham. Photo: MoD

Group Captain Jim Beck, station commander at RAF Marham, said: ‘This is another first for the Lightning Force and will give the opportunity for our pilots to really put the F-35s to the test in a combat-representative environment.

‘This training is as near to high-end operational flying as our pilots can get in a controlled environment and will really test them and the teams that support the squadron.’

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Before joining the drill, Royal Navy pilots will make a pit stop at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in South Carolina.

Image shows: Aircraft Technicians from 617 Squadron checking an F35B while the pilot performs start up checks at RAF Marham in the UK, Norfolk, Kings Lynn. Photo: RAF

The exercise is the latest milestone in the F-35s journey to be operationally ready to fly from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2021.

It comes after a contingent of British stealth jets completed their second bout of flight trials on the aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida last year.

The feared fighter jets, each now worth about £85m, are the most advanced in the world and are able to evade enemy radar to carry out clandestine missions and bombing runs.

They have a top speed comes in at 1.6 Mach or 1,200 mph and are capable of landing vertically.

Image shows: F35Bs on the line under the Hardened Aircraft Shelter at RAF Marham. Photo: MoD

Britain has pledged to buy 138 of the state-of-the-art jets from US aviation giant, Lockheed Martin, in one of the most expensive defence deals in modern times.

In June, a number of the UK’s F-35B fleet were scrambled to join the fight against Islamic State in their first operational mission.

Flying from Cyprus, the jets carrier out more than 14 armed reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Syria, the Ministry of Defence said.

The RAF said the F-35s had not carried out any attacks and that the operations had gone ‘exceptionally well’.

A pilot from 617 Squadron walking towards an F35B at RAF Marham ahead of flying to the US. Photo: MoD

Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP’, called the mission a ‘really historic moment’.

Five F35Bs at RAF Marham waiting to taxi onto the runway as they deploy on Exercise Red Flag. Photo: RAF