There were few people more disappointed that the F-35s didn't fly at Farnborough than the Royal Air Force officer in charge of the aircraft's entry into service. Before joining the RAF's Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, Group Captain Paul Godfrey, OBE, flew Typhoons and Harriers, with an exchange tour on the F-16. He spoke exclusively with ShowNews on Wednesday to update us on what the RAF has learned from this week's cancelation and its plans for the F-35.

ShowNews: Where do things stand for the UK JSF program after the canceled appearances?

Gp. Capt. Godfrey: We're basically in the same place. We've got the combined squadron at Eglin right now, but that's going to split. We've got 13 engineers and one pilot who are going off to Marine Corps Air Base Beaufort in South Carolina, and then we've got the other three pilots and about 16 to 20 engineers that are off to Edwards Air Force Base in California to stand up our Operational Test and Evaluation. With the clearances we've got now, I think we're back on track. We're just disappointed to not being able to show it off to the British public.  

Are there any positives that can be taken from the past few days?  

The actual jets sitting behind a tanker and tanking all the way over here – I think that was the easiest bit. We did the hardest bit, which is all the pre-planning, getting all the logistics squared, getting the right people in place. That's been a huge step forward for the program, in terms of knowing what is required for future deployments. So it's not all been in vain – it's actually been a really good way of learning more about the aeroplane and the capability.  

What is the next realistic chance for people in the UK to see the jet fly? There are hints that next year's RIAT may be a target.  

With the way the program is growing, and the amount of aircraft and people we'll have by then, I do think it is a possibility. Clearly, there's a lot to be decided between now and then, but honestly I don't see any reason why we couldn't do it. The Marine Corps, as the main part of this deployment, were incredibly disappointed – so I wouldn't be surprised if we go for it again next year.  

There had been an expectation that an order for 14 jets would be signed this week. Are you able to say when we might see a confirmed order?

Not at the moment. I'm hopeful [it will be] in the very near future. Things have conspired against us recently, but that is something that we are looking forward to.  

Where are you with work toward bringing JSF into UK service?

We're fairly well detailed in terms of planning. [The work with the U.S. Marine Corps at Beaufort] is a true pooled operation, so our pilots will be a part of VMFAT-501 instructor pilots: Then some of the students who come through towards the back end of that in 2017 and 2018 will be our first ab initio pilots to join 617 Sqn. We're looking for the jets to be back at RAF Marham in and around the July/August timeframe in 2018 for the UK initial operating capability in December '18.

How are you bringing in the experience RAF exchange pilots have gained in flying American stealth aircraft?  

We've learned a huge amount [from our] guys on the F-117, the B-2 and F-22. I think the biggest challenge with this aeroplane for us is integrating that stealth technology – that fifth-generation, next-generation technology – into the existing combat air force. In fact, not just combat air, but all of the air, land and sea platforms that we have. Having people who have done it already is a huge benefit to us – we're not writing the book from scratch.

It's also hugely handy that we're able to fly in exercises. I was lucky enough to fly the Typhoon on Exercise Western Zephyr last year, which was a two-week pre-Red Flag exercise with the F-22s out of Langley. Learning that fourth/fifth-gen fighter-integration training is absolutely worth its weight in gold.

I think we will use F-35 in a completely different way to the 117 or F-22s. With all the advances in technology we've got in there – fusion, convergence of technologies, and the situational awareness that the pilot gains from that – we've got to be careful that we don't try and turn it into our old aeroplanes!