RAF Marham Dambusters take off to join carrier
PUBLISHED: 09:39 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:41 10 June 2020
A crack stealth fighter squadron has taken off to join the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier.
F-35 Lightning jets from RAF Marham have landed on HMS Queen Elizabeth as the ‘Dambusters’ squadron fully joins the Royal Navy aircraft carrier for the first time.
The jets from the 617 Squadron landed on board the 65,000-tonne warship which sailed from Portsmouth Naval Base on Sunday for four weeks of flight trials off the south coast.
Group Capt James Beck, commanding officer of the squadron’s land base RAF Marham, said: “It’s a combination of activity which has taken many years to come to fruition.”
He said the aircraft and the ship had been designed to operate together and represented “an enormous jump in technology”.
Group Capt Beck said student pilots would learn to land on and take off from the carrier during the day and at night before taking part in war fighting scenarios.
Before deploying to Queen Elizabeth, pilots flew night sorties from Marham over parts of Norfolk.
Group Capt Beck said: “We owe it to our pilots to give them a little bit of exposure at night so they’re safe to operate.”
The aircraft that have landed on board will be the same that will sail with the carrier next year on its maiden carrier strike group deployment.
Commander Mark Sparrow, commanding officer of 617 Sqn, said: “We are excited to be on board the carrier and we have been training hard to be here.
“This is the first time the ship’s operational squadron has embarked and worked together.
“The F-35 brings next generation capability to UK Defence through its ability to find, destroy or avoid enemy air defences and enemy aircraft whilst gathering intelligence data.”
Commander Ed Phillips, commander air on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: “Today is a significant day for HMS Queen Elizabeth on the road to delivering carrier strike operations for the Royal Navy.
“We are at the heart of a world-leading capability for the UK and will soon have on our decks two squadrons of F-35s - from the UK and US - plus the protection of a strike group made up of destroyers, frigates and support ships.”
The £3bn warship has just completed a series of sea trials before it returned to Portsmouth at the end of last week to embark pilots, engineers and support staff for the flight trials.
The Queen Elizabeth is set to return to base by the end of June before embarking the jets again later this year for a multinational training exercise with US, European and Nato allies.
There are currently 15 F-35s based at Marham. Group Capt Beck said the number would in crease by three this year, with six jets due to arrive in 2021 and seven in 2022.
He said as the Lightning force grew, it would bring more skilled jobs to west Norfolk. Apprenticeships are due to be launched to give local young people the opportunity to enter the aerospace industry.
The original 617 Sqn attacked hydro-electric dams in Germany’s industrial heartland the Ruhr Valley in May, 1943, using a revolutionary bouncing bomb.
The Mohne and Edersee dams were breached, causing widespread flooding and destroyed mines and factories as well as crippling power supplies.
Eight of the Dambusters’ Lancaster Bombers, which took off from Scampton in Lincolnshire, were shot down and 53 aircrew killed.
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