Minister endorses RAF Marham, as Norfolk MP says base’s secure future makes it an attractive posting
- Credit: Matthew Usher
RAF Marham received a ringing ministerial endorsement as a Norfolk MP said the base had become one of the most attractive postings in the air force.
Defence personnel minister Mark Francois toured the fast jet station with South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss yesterday.
Mr Francois met air and ground crews, and service families on a whistle stop tour of hangars, a family centre and nursery.
'I'm very impressed,' he said. 'This is one of the most important front line stations in the Royal Air Force.
'It plays an integral part in the defence of the UK, squadrons here play a key role in Operation Herrick [Afghanistan]. We're very proud of Marham.'
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Marham will become the home of Lightning II - the RAF's next generation of strike aircraft - as the Tornado is retired from service over the next decade.
Defence Minister Philip Hammond flew to Norfolk to announce the news in March, ending two years of uncertainty for the base.
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Confirmation that Marham will remain operational and at the forefront of Britain's military capabilities means that more than 5,000 jobs and the millions they bring to the local economy will be secure until at least 2040.
'The key point is that this represents an investment of millions of pounds over quite a few years by the MOD,' said Mr Francois. 'It's a large investment in Norfolk.' During his visit, Mr Francois met members of 31 and II(AC) squadrons, sat in the cockpit of a Tornado jet and viewed a flight simulator. He also met families of service personnel at the base's Sandringham and Rainbow centres.
He was accompanied by South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, who led the campaign to make Marham the Lightning II's base.
'It was great to have him here to show support for the base,' she said. 'I'm very excited to hear that plans for the Lightning II are already under way.
'Marham is seen as a very attractive base for service personnel to come to now with such a long future ahead of it.'
Ms Truss said the high quality of facilities at Marham, such as its youth club, helped ensure its attractiveness as a posting.
'We went to the Rainbows Nursery, which Mark Francois said was the best he'd seen,' she added.
Yesterday, it also emerged that Norfolk's economy could receive a further indirect boost from its two main military bases, Marham and Swanton Morley.
Ministers are launching a new scheme to back businesses set up by the spouses of service personnel and forces veterans.
They will be able to apply for low-interest loans of up to £5,000 to help launch their own business.
'It's great news for expanding business,' said Ms Truss 'It's also great news for people looking for employment.
'If you have a wife or husband who's moving from base to base, it helps to have flexible employment, like running your own business.
'Across government, we're looking at ways to promote economic growth. This does well on both counts.'