RAF F-35B Lightnings Bound to Nellis AFB for Their First Red Flag Exercise Diverted To Lajes

One of the RAF F-35B after landing in Lajes. (All images: APS - Associação Portugal Spotters - Portuguese Spotters Association)

Alleged fuel transfer anomalies experienced by a Voyager tanker forced the 5 F-35s to perform an unscheduled visit to Lajes.

On Jan. 22, 2020, five RAF F35B Lightining belonging to 617 Sqn “Dambusters”, departed their homebase at RAF Marham, UK, for Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, where they will take part in Red Flag 20-1, the first RF exercise for the British stealth jets.

Accompanied by two Voyager tankers (ZZ332 and ZZ334) and supported by a Spanish P-3M (that provided Oceanic SAR coverage), the five F-35s (ZM141/007, ZM142/008, ZM144/010, ZM146/012 and ZM139/005) were supposed to refuel multiple times over the Atlantic Ocean and make a stopover at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.

A 617 Sqn F-35B taxies to the parking area at Lajes.

However, RRR9401 (ZZ332) reportedly experienced fuel transfer issues that made the transatlantic crossing impossible and forced the “package” to land at Lajes Field.

The photographs in this post (courtesy of our friends at APS – Associação Portugal Spotters) show the F-35s and one of the two Voyager tankers taxiing after landing at Lajes Field. The aircraft are supposed to attempt the crossing again on Jan. 23, leaving Lajes around 1230Z.

Note the lightning bolt painted on the a/c tail surfaces and the new side codes beneath the canopy and on top of the tail surfaces.
A330 MRTT “Voyager” ZZ334.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.