The Lockheed Martin-built F-35 fighter aircraft has received clearance to launch from the U.K. navy’s aircraft carrier – HMS Queen Elizabeth – after an integrated test force completed a series of ski-ramp trials.
Harriett Baldwin, U.K. defense minister, made the announcement before the House of Commons defense select committee, the British government said in a news release published Tuesday.
The U.K. has 12 F-35s that are in the testing phase in the U.S. in preparation for test flights aboard the aircraft carrier in 2018 and is expected to receive two additional fighter jets by the end of 2017.
The country’s defense ministry also announced that the 617 squadron at Royal Air Force base in Marham, England, will be the country’s first operational F-35 unit.
The British government expects its fleet of F-35s with the Block 3F software to achieve initial operating capability by December 2018.