The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has given official confirmation that the nation’s fleet of next generation fighter jets will arrive at RAF Marham in June.
Williamson made the announcement during a ceremony held at RAF Coningsby to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the world renowned Dambusters raid. The new F-35 Lightning stealth jets will soon take to the skies, flying from the United States with pilots from the newly reformed 617 Squadron at the helm. Appropriately, 617 Squadron was the unit that carried out Operation Chastise and delivered the bouncing bomb in 1943.
“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,” said Williamson.
“Just like those Lancasters which played such a vital role in the Second World War, the F-35B Lightning is based on great British design, operating with futuristic technology to adapt to an increasingly dangerous world.”
617 Squadron is currently overseas undergoing training in the use of the F-35 Lightning before making a return journey to the UK two months ahead of schedule. The move affords support staff the opportunity to perform additional training in preparation for the F-35 Lightning entering into service at the tail-end of the year.
Wing Commander John Butcher, 617 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, added: “I have the great privilege of leading a jointly manned Squadron made up of the best engineers, mission support personnel and pilots from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
“The original Dambuster Squadron 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 Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, forming an integral part of Carrier Strike when operating from Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
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