F-35 jets use new vertical landing pads at RAF Marham for the first time
PUBLISHED: 11:03 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 26 July 2018
For the first time since arriving into the UK, the F-35 Lightning stealth jets have used their vertical landing capability at RAF Marham.
They landed on new Vertical Landing Pads (VLPs) which measures 67m long and 67m wide with a central landing area of 30.5m by 30.5m.
Lt Col Ian Jenkins, Defence Infrastructure Organisation project manager for the VLPs, said: “Vertical landing is a really exciting military capability and from an infrastructure perspective it’s been fascinating to be involved in the design and construction process.
“It was really exciting and rewarding to see an F-35 landing on the first vertical landing pad to be finished and I look forward to seeing more as we continue to work on other infrastructure upgrades required for the F-35s.”
To support the aircraft’s short take off vertical landing (STOVL) capability, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation is building three VLPs through its contractors, a joint venture between Galliford Try and Lagan Construction, at the West Norfolk station.
The F-35’s STOVL capability will provide operational flexibility including landing on the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
Initial flight trials of the F-35 Lightning aircraft from HMS Queen Elizabeth are on track for 2018, allowing a build-up towards delivering a carrier strike capability from 2020.
Due to standard concrete not being suitable for the VLPs, the design team sourced special materials from Germany to make a concrete which has the ability to withstand the high temperatures created by aircraft engines.
This was the first time this material has been used outside the USA and required a rigorous testing process to ensure the landing pads were fit for purpose.
The first use of the new VLPs brings the fighter jets a step closer towards reaching initial operating capability for the UK by the end of the year.
Four of the world’s most advanced warplane touched down at RAF Marham on June 6 with another five excepted to arrive by next month.
They will join the aircraft of the reformed 617 Squadron, the famed Dambusters of the Second World War.