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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UK F-35 Lightning II testing begins in the US

9 February 2015

17 Squadron have begun F-35 trials as they mark the start of UK operational testing.

Engineers, pilots and maintainers from 17(R) Squadron have started work on the British F-35B Lightning II aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Their work is to test and evaluate the aircraft to make sure that when it comes into service it will be the best of its kind for the Royal Navy's future Aircraft Carriers and the Royal Air Force.

But before the Squadron were able to start testing under UK regulations, they had to put processes in place to allow testing and evaluating of the UK's first F-35 Lightning II. And so today, 9 February, 17(R) Squadron are marking this responsibility.

Chief Technician Daniel Foulkes, from the Royal Air Force, is the Maintenance Controller for 17(R) Squadron. His role is to co-ordinate all the maintenance for the UK F-35.

Daniel Foulkes said:

'The advance in technology has really helped with the maintenance of the F-35. We're using computers now whereas before we were relying on using usual manual methods. So it's sped up a lot of the testing and made the whole process more efficient.'

'There's a lot of excitement here since the F-35 arrived. We've spent a long time getting UK processes and regulations in place so that we can receive the aircraft and start testing the aircraft ourselves.'

Commanding Officer of 17(R) Squadron, Wing Commander James Beck, said:

'For a pilot, it's a dream come true to fly from Edwards [Air Force Base]. It's where Chuck Yeager flew his mission and now we're the first nation outside of America to fly independently under our own regulations.'

As well as working in an international testing environment, 17(R) Squadron has another unique quality in that it is made up of Royal Navy as well as Royal Air Force personnel.

Squadron member Gary Lister is a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. His role is to maintain the ejection seats and crew escape system, as well as managing the weapons on the aircraft.

Fully trained in avionics and having served 28 years in the Royal Navy, Gary has seen the aircraft transform over the years. From helicopters to Harriers, Gary has worked on a spectrum of aircraft, but it is with the F-35B Lightning II that Gary has been able to give his engineering skills a real boost.

Gary said:

'It has a myriad of sensors and technologies which means every aspect of the aircraft is constantly being tested. This means when snags are found, they aren't just fixed, but analysed and scrutinised to help future fault diagnosis and streamline the maintenance effort.'

By testing the aircraft operationally at Edwards the Squadron will be able to put the aircraft through its paces at an operational tempo and prove its potential as a true multi role 5th Generation aircraft.

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