The first of Britain’s next-generation fighter jets have arrived home two months ahead of schedule in a major milestone for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. The first of Britain’s new cutting-edge aircraft arrived into RAF Marham their new home in Norfolk.
They touched down this evening after a trans-Atlantic flight from the United States, where Britain has more of the jets and 150 personnel in training. This is the first tranche of F-35s to arrive, with RAF Voyager aircraft providing air-to-air refuels on their trans-Atlantic journey. More jets are due in Britain later this year, and there is an overall plan to procure 138.
Around £550m has been invested in RAF Marham as part of a major change programme to get the base ready to house the new jets. The base has seen an upgrade in facilities, resurfaced runways and the addition of new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically.
The F-35 will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and can operate from land and sea, forming a vital part of ‘carrier strike’, the use of the aircraft from Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
This autumn, the first landing of the F-35 will take place on HMS Queen Elizabeth in the next phase of trials. Having both ship and aircraft operating together for the first time will be another significant moment for the Armed Forces.
The F-35s took off from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort earlier today and were flown by British pilots of the newly-reformed 617 Squadron, which was immortalized by the famous Dambusters’ raid of World War II.