The government has signed a new £161m contract to keep stealth jets and more than 100 jobs in Norfolk.

RAF Marham is currently the home of the F-35 Lightning stealth fighter jets and the UK Lightning Force.

The contract, awarded to Lockheed Martin, ensures the maintenance and support of the UK's fleet of 30 F-35s.

Eastern Daily Press:

The previous agreement was due to finish this year but the new deal will keep the jets in Norfolk for another four and a half years.

The Ministry of Defence has said the deal offers the UK more freedom to operate the aircraft, increases the number of flying hours available and delivers important mission planning, training and maintenance capabilities.

Minister for defence procurement, Alex Chalk KC, said: "Our F-35 Lightning stealth jets are a formidable fighting force, putting us at the cutting-edge of air-borne military capability.

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"Supporting more than 100 jobs in the East of England, this investment will ensure our jets remain equipped for combat operations around the world."

The investment sustains around 140 UK jobs – 130 directly at the Norfolk base and 10 through the supply chain.

The F-35 Lightning is a multi-role, stealth aircraft containing cutting-edge technologies designed to operate as part of a carrier strike group.

It is flown by both the Royal Navy and the RAF.

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As well as its short take-off and vertical landing capability, the F-35’s combination of stealth, cutting-edge radar sensor technology and electronic warfare systems make it a fifth-generation combat aircraft.

The stealth jets first arrived at RAF Marham in 2018 after a £500m facility was built. 

Although based in Norfolk, they also operate from the UK’s two new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers and other land bases.