A leading fighter pilot involved in the testing of Britain’s brand new F-35 fighter jet, the replacement for the iconic Harrier jump jet, is from Whalley.

Test pilot Peter Wilson is the envy of fighter pilots worldwide when he climbs into the state-of-the-art F-35 jet
Test pilot Peter Wilson is the envy of fighter pilots worldwide when he climbs into the state-of-the-art F-35 jet

Whalley pilot is putting super jet through its paces

Peter Wilson (47), a veteran Harrier pilot and one of Britain’s leading test pilots, has flown combat missions in Iraq, Bosnia and Sierra Leone throughout the course of his career.

After the bitter controversy surrounding the government’s decision to scrap the Harrier as part of 2010 defence cuts, Peter is part of the team of Britain’s top gun fighter pilots who are currently testing its successor, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Peter, who was born in Whalley and now lives in Little Eccleston, near Preston, with his family said: “I love the Ribble Valley and it’s always nice to come back to visit when I’m not working.”

Under the Government’s plans to build two new aircraft carriers equipped with the state-of-the-art fighters, the role of the F-35 is crucial to the programme’s success. Like the Harrier before it, the F-35 has the ability to conduct vertical landings, courtesy of its Rolls-Royce vertical landing system which will enable the aircraft to land on the deck of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers which are currently under construction in Scotland.

Apart from its phenomenal flying capability, the F-35 is also fitted with the latest intelligence-gathering and state-of-the-art stealth technology. Named “Lightning II” in tribute to Britain’s pioneering supersonic jet fighter in operation in the early Cold War era,

British Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond, who visited the American test site last week, said that the Government remained committed to maintaining the £10 billion programme and that Britain’s participation “will, in addition, strengthen the alliance between Britain and America.”