F35-B fighters arrive in UK's Cyprus base for training tests

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AKROTIRI, Cyprus (AP) — Six F35-B Lightning warplanes, the U.K.’s newest fighter, arrived Tuesday at a British air base on Cyprus for training and a systems test in the aircraft’s first overseas deployment.

The jets from 617 Squadron, flown by three British Royal Navy and three Royal Air Force pilots, touched down at RAF Akrotiri for what officials said will be a six-week deployment on the eastern Mediterranean island nation as part of Exercise Lightning Dawn.

RAF Akrotiri Station Commander Christopher Snaith said the deployment will let pilots put the planes through their paces, test logistics and sharpen ground crew training.

Snaith said the training aims to prepare the aircraft for its first deployment aboard the U.K.’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and to develop its strike capability.

There are no current plans to have the aircraft conduct combat missions, said Snaith.

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Flight training will take place over waters south of Cyprus and won’t involve any weapons.

Snaith said RAF Akrotiri was selected for training because it’s far away enough from the U.K. to “stretch logistics,” but familiar enough to U.K. pilots, some of whom have flown out of the air base before.

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