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UK officials visit Fightertown

By Lance Cpl. Jonah Lovy | Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort | June 19, 2015

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort hosted
officers from the United Kingdom’s
F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
program, June 16. The officers toured the
facilities aboard Fightertown in order to
increase cooperation and further their
own F-35 program.
The U.K. has been integrated into Marine
Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501
since February 2015, when the Royal Air
Force flew three Joint Strike Fighters to
Fightertown. Currently, there are 14 U.K.
service members at VMFAT-501.
Six distinguished guests visited MCAS
Beaufort which included Air Commodore
Harvey Smyth, the lightning force commander
for the U.K. F-35 program; Group
Capt. Paul Godfrey, the current group
captain lightning for the U.K. F-35 program;
and Group Capt. Ian Townsend, the
incoming group captain lightning for the
U.K. F-35 program.
Smyth, as the Lightning Force Commander,
is responsible for the entire F-35
program in the Royal Air Force. Godfrey
is the current Group Captain Lightning, a
position that is responsible for U.K. F-35
operations aboard MCAS Beaufort. His
replacement, Group Capt. Ian Townsendis touring MCAS Beaufort for the first time to familiarize himself with the program.
“The benefit of this tour is being able to sit down with senior leadership here and see what they think about the integration of British pilots and maintainers into VMFAT-501,” said Godfrey.
The visit included a tour of the Pilot Training Center aboard the Air Station. Fightertown’s PTC is the largest F-35 training center in the world where pilots from around the globe enhance their skills. The U.K. is currently building their own.
The British guests also toured VMFAT-501 and saw the integrated program up-close.
The F-35 program is growing every day and is the future of military aviation for countries around the world.
“Without the Marines, the F-35 program would not be where it is today,” said Godfrey.