UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that the first next-generation F-35B Lightning II fighter jets will begin arriving at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham air station early next month.
The RAF Marham in Norfolk, East Anglia, will serve as the home for the first tranche of the four F-35B Lightning II fighters that will arrive in the UK from the US.
To be flown by the British RAF’s newly reformed Dambusters 617 Squadron, the F-35Bs are expected to fly across the Atlantic Ocean with several air-to-air refuelling serials.
The 617 Squadron has been formed and named after 75 years of the original formation of the legendary Dambusters squadron, which carried out missions during World War II in 1943.
The 617 Squadron is currently training with the fighter jets in the US before they start flying to the UK.
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.
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“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.”
Built by Lockheed Martin, F-35B Lightning II is multi-role first fighter aircraft that combines radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds, as well as short take-off and vertical landing capability.
Capable of being operated from both land and sea, the aircraft will be jointly operated by the RAF and the British Royal Navy.
When in service with the Royal Navy, the F-35s will serve as a major part of Carrier Strike when operating from the navy’s newest Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.