RAF Marham jets flew as part of multi-national strike force
PUBLISHED: 12:56 17 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:56 17 October 2020
Norfolk’s stealth fighters have completed their largest mission yet.
F-35 Lightnings based at RAF Marham have been taking part in international exercises in the North Sea on board the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
During the sailing, the £3bn warship was at the centre of a strike group which was made up of nine ships, 15 fighter jets, 11 helicopters and 3,000 personnel from the UK, US and the Netherlands.
The aircraft included F-35s flown by members of the 617 “Dambusters” Squadron.
The Royal Navy described the gathering as “the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years”.
It included taking on board both UK and US Lightnings for the first time.
The ship’s departure from Portsmouth for the exercises was delayed after a small number of crew tested positive for Covid-19, and because of changing weather forecasts.
Hundreds of families and well-wishers lined the harbour walls to welcome home the 65,000-tonne warship as it sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base, having taken part in the multinational GroupEx and Joint Warrior exercises.
The Queen Elizabeth is expected to depart for its maiden operational deployment next year, with Marham jets on board.
The carrier strike group included destroyers - the Royal Navy’s Type 45s HMS Diamond and HMS Defender and US Navy Arleigh Burke-class USS The Sullivans - as well as frigates HMS Northumberland and HMS Kent from the UK, and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Evertsen.
They are tasked with protecting the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers from enemy ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles, as well as carrying out a range of support missions, from maritime security to disaster relief.
Two Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships - RFA Tideforce and RFA Fort Victoria - were also involved to supply fuel, food, spares and ammunition, to enable sustained operations at sea.
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