RAF sets up F-35B Lightning role demonstration for 2024 season

The Royal Air Force will perform an F-35B Lightning role demonstration in 2024, it has been revealed.

The role demonstration has been confirmed for the Royal International Air Tattoo on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st July, and will also participate in other UK events.

The RAF has, until now, made only very limited airshow appearances with its F-35s. A joint team of US Marine Corps and Royal Air Force aircraft and pilots performed solo displays at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2016, and RAF jets have performed flypasts and hover demonstrations at the Royal International Air Tattoo since 2018, the Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow in 2018, and the RAF Cosford Airshow since 2022 – occasionally also flying in formation with other aircraft like a Spanish Navy Harrier and the BBMF’s Lancaster. However, with each appearance consisting of just two or three passes, they fell short of being classed as a full role demonstration.

In comparison, this year’s show will last around ten minutes and will feature fast and slow passes, high-G turns, an opening of the internal weapons bay and hovering manoeuvres.

A role demonstration includes manoeuvres typically flown on operations and in combat, but is usually non-aerobatic, thus requiring less training than a full airshow display.

Establishing an F-35 role demo for the 2024 season is, perhaps, logical, as the jet gets closer to being declared fully-operational. It could also be seen as a way for the RAF to bolster support to UK shows held in late August and early September, when the Red Arrows are unavailable due to their Canadian tour – especially following the withdrawal of the Chinook solo display this year. However, a full F-35B aerobatic display is probably out of the question – at least for now – due to high operating costs and the relatively small number of aircraft and type-qualified pilots in the RAF.

It is not yet publicly known how many events the role demonstration will attend.