Royal Firstborn

Lockheed Martin completed assembly of the first international F-35 strike fighter, an airframe for Britain, announced the company Tuesday. This aircraft, designated BK-1, is in the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing configuration. It left Lockheed’s production line at Fort Worth, Tex., for the flight line on Nov. 20. The company will deliver BK-1 in 2012 following initial testing. “This first F-35 for the first international program partner is symbolic of the proud partnership we share with the United Kingdom,” stated Tom Burbage, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager of program integration. The F-35 is “ideally suited” to Britain’s combat needs since it “is capable of operating from both the land and our new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier,” said RAF Group Capt. Harv Smyth, British national deputy for the F-35. Ordered before Britain amended its procurement plan to include only the aircraft-carrier-optimized F-35C, the British will use BK-1 as an operational test and training airframe.