Momentous year ahead for RAF Marham as £500m infrastructure works prepare base for F-35B Lightning arrival
- Credit: Archant
Major infrastructure works to prepare RAF Marham for the arrival of the world's most advanced fighter jet are progressing well as the base readies itself for a 'momentous year'.
More than £500m is being invested in new facilities to match the state-of-the-art F-35B Lightning - nine of which will touch down at Marham as part of 617 Sqn in mid-2018.
The first building of Project Anvil - named after a type of Lightning - to be handed over will be the headquarters for the Lightning Force at the start of next year.
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Currently 617 Sqn are at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina with one of the US Marine Corps training squadrons. Around 150 UK personnel, both RAF and Royal Navy pilots and maintainers, are involved.
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Air Commodore David Bradshaw, commander of the F-35 Lightning force, said: 'This particular time of the programme is really exciting because 2018 is going to be a momentous year for the Lightning Force where we bring 617 Sqn, the Dambusters, back from the United States of America and they start actually operating here at RAF Marham.'
There are eight construction sites across the base. Works include refurbishment of the secondary runway which will be a short take-off and landing strip and construction of vertical landing pads.
A giant hangar where the RAF and Royal Navy's aircraft will be maintained is being built along with a training centre which will house full Lightning mission simulators.
Buildings for the Operational Conversion Unit 207 Sqn, which will train future pilots, are also part of the works.
Group Capt Ian Townsend, station commander, said it was important to remember Marham is still home to the Tornado GR4, which he called a 'stalwart' of the RAF.
The jets have 15 more months of operational service and are currently working in Iraq and Syria.
He said: 'We absolutely have to maintain the operational focus on the Tornado GR4 community and they are working tirelessly day and night on that operation.'
However he added: 'To have the F-35 coming here and securing the future of the base for the next 30 or 40 years is really significant.'
The F-35B is due to operate off HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier at the end of 2020.
Group Capt Townsend added: 'In my four months here I cannot tell you how well support I think this air base is by the local community. That is brilliant.
'RAF Marham and the family of RAF Marham is not just us in the uniform or the civil service or contractors, it is really part of the region.'
Project Anvil facts
• 90pc of the airfield operating surfaces will be refurbished.
• More than 10km of trenches dug to connect new buildings to power, water and communication networks.
• Around 180 lorries per day enter the site.
• The secondary runway is 6,086 feet long. It's three new vertical landing pads are 1,200 feet long.
• 40,000 steel bolts used in the construction of the Maintenance and Finishing Facility building which will provide engineering support and a paint facility.
• 32 Olympic-size swimming pools could fit into the building which will include an eight-bay hanger.
• It is not all new buildings, some of the old hangers are being refurbished.
• The construction companies involved have raised £10,000 for local charities, £2.500 for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
• They have created 26 opportunities for work placements.
• The project's contracts are being managed by both Defence Equipment and Support (DE&s) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.
• DE&S projects are being delivered by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems and supported by Balfour Beatty.