RAF Marham to be the base for the next generation of fast jet strike aircraft
PUBLISHED: 12:35 25 March 2013 | UPDATED: 16:36 25 March 2013
RAF Marham will be the base for the next generation of fast jet strike aircraft it emerged today.
What Marham means to Norfolk
RAF Marham is worth £130m a year to the East Anglian economy.
It employs 5,170, a rare source of well-qualified, well-paid jobs in an area where unemployment is currently running at 7.4pc - higher than the national average.
The livelihoods of many depend directly or indirectly on the base and the thousands of familes living on and around it.
Defence secretary, Philip Hammond, flew to the Norfolk base to announce the decision to personnel this morning.
The announcement safeguards Marham’s future until 2040 - along with 5,000 jobs and the millions it contributes to the region’s economy each year.
Mr Hammond said Marham had always been the first choice to be home for the Lightning II.
He said the joint strike fighter would be based at Marham as part of a combined RAF and Royal Naval force which would operate the aircraft both from land bases and future aircraft carriers.
“That’s extremely good news for this station, extremely good news for this community and extremely good news for the RAF and Royal Navy.
“I know you will share with me the excitement of having the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft based here and operating from here.”
The decision secures the future of the Norfolk base, where about 5,000 people are employed, which had been in doubt as Tornado squadrons are phased out.
RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland had originally been announced as the preferred base for the new jet but a review of this decision was launched in 2011.
Mr Hammond added: “This is the next step in the restructuring of the armed forces, providing them with the world’s most capable combat aircraft.
“Basing the new Lightning II at RAF Marham makes strategic sense and best use of the resources available.
“It also secures the future of one of the UK’s most operationally experienced bases.
“Now this decision has been taken, we can start the planning and infrastructure investment required for RAF Marham’s future.”
RAF Marham station commander Group Capt David Cooper said he was delighted at the announcement.
He added: “This is excellent news for my personnel, for the local community and region, and for the Royal Air Force and UK Defence.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said the decision made strategic sense and would also boost the area’s economy.
She added: “The Libya campaign, the £50 million worth of engineering facilities, the ongoing presence in Afghanistan all highlighted the real worth of having an operational base in Norfolk.
“The close proximity to the USAF at Lakenheath and Mildenhall is an obvious advantage and with over 5,000 personnel currently working at the base, the substantial wider economic benefits to the region has been estimated at £102 million.
“Today’s announcement will provide the reassurance that RAF Marham’s future is secure for many, many years to come and is really excellent news for Norfolk as a whole.”
The EDP teamed up with politicians and community groups to launch the Make It Marham campaign in 2010.
Ms Truss added: “We campaigned across Norfolk to show how important the base is for the Norfolk community.”