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Norfolk set to be at heart of Britain’s supersonic military power with new stealth fighter jet

PUBLISHED: 17:29 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:33 18 May 2018

The F-35 Lightning aircraft that the new squadron headquarters at RAF Marham will house. Picture: Crown copyright.

The F-35 Lightning aircraft that the new squadron headquarters at RAF Marham will house. Picture: Crown copyright.

Crown copyright

They are the supersonic fighter jets at the cutting edge of the technology, which are set to make Britain feared and revered in equal measure.

An F-35 Lightning II from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from RAF Lakenheath. Picture: US Air Force/Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield An F-35 Lightning II from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from RAF Lakenheath. Picture: US Air Force/Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield

And now community leaders have welcomed Norfolk’s central role in helping the United Kingdom to punch its weight on the world stage.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson revealed that the multi-million pound F35-B Lightning aircraft will start touching down at their new home at RAF Marham next month.

The station has been busily preparing for the arrival of the warplanes with “unprecedented” stealth capabilities, investing £250m in new runways, hangars and a command centre bringing 1,200 construction jobs.

And their importance in British military operations is only going to grow, with the plane’s manufacturer saying they could have the capability to deploy drones in the future.

The F-35 Lightning making a first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt The F-35 Lightning making a first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

It marks a remarkable turnaround in RAF Marham’s fortunes, as it is only five years since campaigners were fighting to save the station from closure with the Make it Marham.

West Norfolk mayor and former council leader Nick Daubney was one of the key figures of the Make it Marham campaign.

He said: “The campaign was about making sure Marham survived and since then it has become Europe’s major station.

“The role it’s going to play in military defence will be a major one, it has become an advanced military centre.

The F-35 Lightning making a first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt The F-35 Lightning making a first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

“With all the jobs and technology that goes with it, Marham is an absolutely vital station. The development is good for the region, for jobs and for trainees in the future.”

Michael Baldwin, president of West Norfolk Chamber Council, said: “As the new home for the jets, not only has this secured RAF Marham’s future for many years to come but it will ensure there are plenty of future opportunities for our local economy, businesses and young people, as a result.”

By late 2021, America will also deploy the first batch of 54 US Air Force F-35As which will be based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

A US defence official said there would be a “tremendous opportunity for synergy for them to work together to train together - mutual support with regards to parts, technicians, technologies”.

RAF Marham station commander, Group Captain Ian Townsend, said: “It will be fantastic to welcome the next generation of combat air power to their new home of RAF Marham. “

Liz Truss, MP for south west Norfolk, added: “RAF Marham is at the forefront of the UK’s defence capabilities and after the fantastic success of the Make it Marham campaign, it will be home to the most advanced fighter jet in the world, the F35.

“Forming an essential part of the offensive capabilities for the Royal Air Force, the arrival of the F35 is really good news for local people with highly skilled employment and training opportunities.

“Building on the substantial engineering and maintenance facilities, the hi-tech imagery and sophisticated reconnaissance work plus all the additional supporting roles, RAF Marham will be leading the way and this is certainly great news for South West Norfolk.”

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