The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed to Jane's that it signed the initial Release to Service (RtS) for the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) on 14 February.
The RtS, which sets out the safe operating envelope for the F-35B, is a significant milestone in the UK's programme in that it allows for peacetime training of pilots on the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, including for the first time ab initio students.
Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN) F-35B personnel are currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in South Carolina. With the first US Marine Corps (USMC) ab initio students (dubbed Cat 1 by the service) having entered into training in mid-2016, the syllabus is ready for the first UK students to follow.
To date, the UK has received five test and training aircraft and has 10 operational jets under contract. It has a total requirement for 138 to equip the two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers for the RN, and to augment the Eurofighter Typhoon for the RAF.
In February 2015, the RAF's 17 Reserve Squadron stood up as the operational test and evaluation squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California. (end of excerpt)
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