F-35 warplanes' arrival in Norfolk is a 'a national statement of our intent', says UK defence secretary

The first F35 B Lightning at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

The first F35 B Lightning at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

The arrival of hi-tech stealth warplanes in Norfolk is a "national statement of our intent to protect ourselves", the UK's defence secretary has said.

The arrival of four F35 B Lightning stealth aircraft at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian BurtThe arrival of four F35 B Lightning stealth aircraft at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

Hundreds lined the lanes as the first four F-35 Lightnings roared in from America, securing the future of the West Norfolk base for another generation.

Station Commander Group Capt Ian “Cab” Townsend heralded it as a “remarkable day, not just for the Royal Air Force but for the local community”.

However in a Tweet, defence secretary Gavin Williamson said that the arrival of the hi-tech stealth fighter jets in Norfolk was a statement of the country’s intent to protect itself.

“These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world,” he said.

“With game-changing ability to collect crucial intelligence, fight wars and tackle terrorism, these are the most advanced jets in British history.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) also Tweeted to say the arrival of the F-35s on Norfolk soil was a “proud moment” for the country.

Chief of the Air Staff Stephen Hillier also called it a “historic moment”, while RAF Marham Tweeted to say their arrival was a “fabulous sight”.

The arrival of Britain’s newest warplane was important for the local economy, with Group Capt Townsend adding: “A lot of people work in Marham so it’s really important for jobs.”

The so-called stealth fighter will replace the Tornado GR4, which has been in continual service for three decades.

When officials announced the Tornado’s retirement in 2010, there was uncertainty over where its replacement would be based.

So this newspaper, MPs and local politicians launched a campaign to Make it Marham.

Almost 37,000 people from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire signed a petition launched in November 2010.

A delegation delivered it to 10 Downing Street, as MPs and council leaders put the case to save Marham to then defence secretary Liam Fox.

In March 2013, the then defence secretary Philip Hammond flew to Norfolk to announce the station was saved.

Five years later, the first F-35s have touched down at the home of the new Lightning Force.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who was at the forefront of the campaign, said: “I believe the campaigning by everyone from the EDP and local residents to businesses and politicians helped to secure the long term future of the base.”

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