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Dambusters would be “amazed” by new RAF Marham stealth fighter

PUBLISHED: 10:33 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:33 04 December 2017

Wg Cdr J. R. Butcher, OC 617 Sqn, taxis a F-35B Lighting II aircraft. Picture: Lance Cpl. Cameron Darrough

Wg Cdr J. R. Butcher, OC 617 Sqn, taxis a F-35B Lighting II aircraft. Picture: Lance Cpl. Cameron Darrough

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The original Dambusters would be “quite amazed” by Britain’s new cutting-edge warplane, the commander of the newly reformed 617 Squadron has said.

The Dambusters flew Lancaster bombers similar to this preserved example about to take off at RAF Marham. Picture: Chris BishopThe Dambusters flew Lancaster bombers similar to this preserved example about to take off at RAF Marham. Picture: Chris Bishop

Wing Cdr John Butcher has recently completed his first flight inside the multi-million pound stealth F-35B jet, describing the experience as “something else”.

RAF and Royal Navy pilots are currently training on the F-35 in South Carolina ahead of the return of 617 Sqn to RAF Marham next summer.

The squadron was originally created in 1943 to carry out one of the most daring raids of the Second World War, devastating German hydro-electric dams using bouncing bombs.

Quizzed on what he thinks the original members of the squadron may have thought about the jets, Wing Cdr Butcher said they would be “quite amazed”.

Wg Cdr J. R. Butcher, OC 617 Sqn, taxis a F-35B Lighting II aircraft aboard Marine Corps Air Statin Beaufort, Picture:  Lance Cpl Cameron DarroughWg Cdr J. R. Butcher, OC 617 Sqn, taxis a F-35B Lighting II aircraft aboard Marine Corps Air Statin Beaufort, Picture: Lance Cpl Cameron Darrough

“They were formed nearly 75 years ago for a very special purpose, and that was to bring cutting-edge technology into service for a very special mission,” he said.

“And for me I can see a lot of parallels with what we are being asked to do now. We are bringing very special technology into service - once again for a very, very special mission, which is to bring stealth and combat air capability to UK defence.

“I think there is a nice link there between what our forefathers did with 617 squadron, and what we are now doing.”

Wing Cdr Butcher, 37, who has been in the RAF for 19 years, was inspired to join by his Lancaster pilot grandfather.

Original members of the Dambusters Squadron would be amazed at the RAF's new stealth fighter. Picture: Chris BishopOriginal members of the Dambusters Squadron would be amazed at the RAF's new stealth fighter. Picture: Chris Bishop

Of his latest aircraft, he said: “It was absolutely fantastic getting into the aeroplane for the first time and experiencing flying the F-35, was just something else.

“It was a real thrill to finally fly this aircraft and it certainly exceeded my expectations.

“The capabilities and potential of this aircraft are immense and this is a very exciting time to be a fast jet pilot.”

Next summer will see the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots return as 617 Squadron to Marham.

The Dambusters of 1943 were crews of British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and American personnel.

Asked whether it was the right decision to reform 617 squadron for the F-35s, Wing Cdr Butcher said it absolutely was and “plays that tune” of bringing into action a new piece of technology.

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