U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fighter planes arrived at RAF Lakeheath, Britain, on Wednesday, in preparation for a 28-week deployment aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Photo by A1C Jesse Monte/U.S. Marine Corps
April 28 (UPI) -- The "Wake Island Avengers" squadron of U.S. Marines F-35B fighter planes arrived in Britain on Wednesday to deploy with a British carrier strike force.
The aircraft traveled 5,000 miles from Marine Air Station Yuma, Ariz., to Royal Air Force Lakeheath, on England's eastern coast, to conduct final training for planned 28-week deployment aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The ship, with escort vessels from several NATO countries, will conduct its first operational deployment with planned visits to 40 countries, including India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
The escort vessels will include the U.S. Navy destroyer The Sullivans, and the frigate HNLMS Evertsen of the Royal Netherlands Navy, as well as British destroyers, frigates, submarines and support vessels.
The "Wake Island Avengers," formally the VMFA-211 Squadron, will join the RAF's 617 Squadron, known as the "Dambusters," to form what U.S. Defense Department on Wednesday called "the largest 5th-generation carrier air wing [of F-35s] in the world."
The Marines and their F-35B planes, which feature short-takeoff and landing capabilities, first practiced aboard the Queen Elizabeth in September 2020.
"Moving the Marines, aircraft and equipment to the United Kingdom required coordinated planning, complex logistical effort, diligent maintenance and seamless execution," Lt. Col. Andrew D'Ambrogi, commanding officer of VMFA-211, said Wednesday in a press release.
"Now that we have arrived in the United Kingdom, we are reintegrating with our U.K. counterparts and focused on providing both the commodore of CSG-21 [the HMS Queen Elizabeth] and U.S. combatant commanders with ready, combat-capable, 5th-generation aircraft," D'Ambrogi said.