Officer who oversaw Tornado to F-35 transition to leave Norfolk air base
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The commanding officer who oversaw the transition between the Tornado and the new state-of-the-art F-35 Lightning at RAF Marham is set to leave his position next week.
Group Captain Ian 'Cab' Townsend will make way for Group Captain Jim Beck, who has just returned from California where he and 100 test pilots and engineers collected the new F-35s and carried out tests.
Group Captain Townsend said he will have a short time of relaxation before flying off to Akrotiri in Cyprus for operational deployment.
Group Captain Beck, who will be the first station commander to fly an F-35, said his biggest challenge as station commander will be bringing the RAF on to a new way of thinking.
He explained that with the new F-35 most of the battle is fought in the simulator where pilots test situations which sometimes the adversary is yet to think about.
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The base is due to have 48 new jets by 2024, with 138 by the end of the decade.
Group captain Beck said the base is currently expanding to cope with the arrival of more jets with careful thought going into "every brick we've laid here."
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"I want to embrace the community, we want to get out and see it and as a station commander we are very privileged. You get to go out and tell the narrative of how vital Marham is, and I want the people of this region to be very proud of what is the most cutting edge airbase in Europe at the moment and also one of the most cutting edge in the world."
Group Captain Beck said: "Marham has delivered an incredible amount in the last 12 months. There doesn't need to be massive changes whatsoever, I'm going to put my unique stamp on it and that will be the infrastructure, the buildings and predominantly the people, but I don't see any seismic changes because we've been over the last few months, incredibly successful."
Group Captain Townsend said: "We've had an amazing two years. It's a really interesting time for the station, I'd like to think that we made that really significant transition from Tornado, which has been here for many years since 1982, a 40 year-old platform thereabouts, and here we are now starting with F-35s, another 40 year platform but in a different direction, and it's been fascinating to be able to make the transition between the two."