Britain’s next generation of fighter jets will start arriving at their new home early next month, it was announced on May 16. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the imminent arrival of the F-35 Lightning stealth jets to RAF Marham in Norfolk during an event at RAF Coningsby to mark the 75th anniversary of the famous Dambusters raid of World War Two.
The aircraft are due to fly across the Atlantic from the US will be flown by members of the newly reformed 617 Squadron which flew, and was immortalised by, the Dambusters mission in 1943.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “75 years ago the Dambusters pushed the boundaries of what was possible. That same spirit of innovation continues today as the Dambusters of today prepare to fly the world’s most advanced fighter jet in the skies over the UK.”
Today’s 617 Squadron is currently training with the UK’s F-35 Lightning II jets in America before they start flying to the UK two months ahead of schedule. This provides a good opportunity for support staff to do extra training on the road to the jets being ready for operational service by the end of the year.
No.617 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Wg Cdr John Butcher, said: “I have the great privilege of leading a jointly manned squadron made up of the best engineers, mission support personnel and pilots from the RAF and Royal Navy. The original Dambusters did not know what their mission was going to be until the last moment. Yet they had to make sure they were ready and that is as true for us today. The spectrum of missions we can undertake in the F-35 will be huge and we have to make sure we are ready to do whatever is asked of us.”
The F-35B Lightning, multi-role fighter jet is the first to combine radar evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and short take-off and vertical landing capability. It will be jointly manned by the RAF and the Royal Navy and can operate from land and sea, and will form a vital part of the carrier strike force when operating from the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.