The RAF has sent F-35B Lightnings on their first overseas deployment, to Cyprus. The six F-35s from 617 Sqn at RAF Marham (ZM143, ’144, ’145, ’146, ’147 and ’148) arrived at RAF Akrotiri on 21 May for a six-week long exercise entitled Lightning Dawn. The exercise will test the ability to operate the stealth fighter away from its home base in an unfamiliar environment. This will also benefit the Royal Navy as they prepare to take the F-35 to sea again.
RAF Marham Station Commander, Group Captain ‘Cab’ Townsend said: “The training exercise will also examine all aspects of moving this aircraft to a new location, including logistics, maintenance, and sustainment of all the equipment and crew that comes with this impressive aircraft whilst also enhancing its preparedness for its first operational carrier deployment later this year.”
This is the first visit of any F-35 variant to Cyprus, and with the island not far from Syria, no doubt the RAF will be keen to evaluate the F-35’s sensors in a realistic operational environment.