RAF Marham F-35 Dambusters set to join carrier

F-35 Lightning jets are set to leave RAF Marham for a deployment on board the aircraft carrier HMS Q

F-35 Lightning jets are set to leave RAF Marham for a deployment on board the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

An entire squadron of stealth fighters are set to swap Norfolk for the navy’s new aircraft carrier.

RAF Marham-based 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, are preparing for a training deployment to HMS Queen Elizabeth at the beginning of June.

It will see the entire front line squadron of F-35 Lightning jets deploy to the carrier to understand how a whole squadron can function on the ship and operate in a maritime environment on a day to day basis.

The preparation to deploy has seen a number of added challenges as different processes and measures have been put in place to ensure that members of 617 Sqn and supporting personnel do not pass the Covid-19 virus to the crew of the carrier, which has already had a period of isolation at sea.

The squadron and personnel from Lightning Team UK, the industry team who support the Lightning force, are about to go into their own period of isolation away from their families and other personnel at RAF Marham.

They will all be tested for the virus and on confirmation of a negative result will be allowed to enter the quarantine area.

Once in isolation they will continue to adhere to government guidance including social distancing and regular hand washing.

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During the quarantine period the squadron will continue to prepare for their deployment with routine maintenance on the aircraft and flying activity.

The flying training is essential for the aircrew to ensure they are ready to join the carrier in early June. This will include a period of night flying training which will take place between May 27 and 30 during which the local community may notice aircraft noise up until 2am. There will also be a period of training over the weekend of May 30 to 31 which could include flying up until 7pm.

RAF Marham station commander Group Capt James Beck said: “This deployment is the next phase of essential training for the Lightning force in the journey to declaring initial operating capability maritime at the end of the year. In the current climate this has brought up a lot more challenges but I am confident that we have put all the processes and mitigation in place to ensure that the personnel can deploy safely.”

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