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US Marine Corps F-35Bs arrive in the UK for Big Lizzie’s maiden deployment

USMC F-35Bs in the UK
F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 13 line the apron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 26, 2021. Photo: US Navy

US Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) fighter jets flew 5,000 miles from their home station in Arizona to the UK to join the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden deployment.

The F-35Bs landed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, from where they will deploy with the aircraft carrier next month.

During the CSG-21 deployment, F-35B aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, will integrate with the UK’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” to form the largest 5th-generation carrier air wing in the world.

“Moving the Marines, aircraft and equipment to the United Kingdom required coordinated planning, complex logistical effort, diligent maintenance and seamless execution,” said Lt. Col. Andrew D’Ambrogi, the commanding officer of VMFA-211. “Now that we have arrived in the United Kingdom, we are reintegrating with our UK counterparts and focused on providing both the commodore of CSG-21 and US combatant commanders with ready, combat-capable, 5th-generation aircraft.”

This Marine Corps F-35B deployment comes ahead of CSG-21’s worldwide deployment later this year, marking the first full operational deployment of a US F-35B squadron aboard a British aircraft carrier. This combined deployment marks another step forward in the United States’ “special relationship” with the UK.

“We have no closer ally than the United Kingdom,” said US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Yael Lempert. “Together, we stand committed to protecting our shared security, addressing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, and reaffirming our steadfast commitment to the NATO alliance.”

VMFA-211 is also supported with US Navy personnel assigned to USS John C. Stennis. The sailors, all aviation ordnancemen, will be assembling ordnance in support of VMFA-211 for the duration of the deployment.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead an international task group on a deployment to the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and South China Sea before a port visit to Japan for the final stop of the deployment.