BK-1, Britain’s first production F-35 strike fighter, left the ground for the first time, climbing away from Lockheed Martin’s facility at Fort Worth, Tex., announced the company. “Not only is this a watershed moment for the Joint Strike Fighter program, since BK-1 is the first international F-35 to fly, but it also brings us one step closer to delivery of this essential fifth generation capability for the UK,” said Group Capt. Harv Smyth, Britain’s F-35 program representative, in commenting on the aircraft’s April 13 flight. Lockheed test pilot Bill Gigliotti put the F-35B short-takeoff and vertical-landing jet through its paces, checking system functionality during the 45-minute flight. BK-1’s first flight came as Britain’s government is mulling reversing its October 2010 decision to abandon the F-35B in favor of the carrier-optimized F-35C, reports Britain’s Daily Mail. BK-1, which will serve as Britain’s test and training aircraft at Eglin AFB, Fla., was ordered before that decision. (See also Esau’s Bowl of Soup.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.