Marham F-35 Lightnings set for first overseas deployment

PUBLISHED: 09:18 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:03 08 April 2019

Pilots will be carrying out night flying exercises in the F35 Lightning  Picture: Ian Burt

Pilots will be carrying out night flying exercises in the F35 Lightning Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

RAF Marham’s F-35B Lightning stealth fighter jets will start their first overseas deployment in Cyprus later this year.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson at RAF Marham   Picture: Chris BishopDefence secretary Gavin Williamson at RAF Marham Picture: Chris Bishop

It will allow RAF and Royal Navy personnel to gain experience in maintaining and flying the aircraft in an unfamiliar environment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The UK currently owns 17 of the aircraft, and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson pledged that a total of 138 will be bought.

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

“This deployment marks an important milestone in this game-changing aircraft’s journey to becoming fully operational.”

The home base of the F-35s is Marham and they will be deployed to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

The jets’ first embarkation on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, due to happen in the autumn, will also be an important milestone to “prove their readiness”, said Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff.

The F-35 is the first to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and the ability to conduct short take-offs and vertical landings, the MoD said.

It has the ability to operate from land and sea. The first of the F-35s touched down in the UK in June 2018, and it was announced in January that they are ready to be deployed on operations.

The multimillion-pound aircraft replace the Tornado, which was based at Marham for more than 30 years.

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