Next step in scheme to see state-of-the-art jets at Norfolk RAF base cleared

F-35B Lightning II jets (Picture: MoD)

F-35B Lightning II jets (Picture: MoD) - Credit: MoD/Crown copyright 2016

The next step in a scheme to bring cutting-edge fighter jets to Norfolk has been cleared.

The F-35 jets, which are due to come to RAF Marham next year, have been cleared for take-off from HMS Queen Elizabeth, it was announced in the House of Commons defence select committee on Tuesday afternoon.

The UK currently has 12 F-35 jets in America, where they are being tested ahead of flight trials from the Royal Navy's 65,000-tonne carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, next year.

There are already 150 UK personnel in the US working with the jets, with the latest course of UK pilots having just finished their ground school training.

Among those to have graduated are four pilots, including wing commander John Butcher, who will be the commanding officer of the RAF's new 617 squadron at RAF Marham.

Marham will be the first operational British F-35 unit. Last month, it resurfaced a runway intersection in preparation.

Defence minister Harriett Baldwin said: 'Successful ski-ramp trials mean the F-35 is cleared to fly from the carrier as the momentum continues for this game-changing jet. This milestone comes as our pilots and planes prepare to return from the States, ready for next year's unforgettable flight trials from the deck of the nation's new flagship.'

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Speaking about the jet, squadron leader Andy Edgell said: 'She's marvellous. She has an incredible amount of thrust but it's more than just brawn that makes her so fantastic to fly - it's the brains behind her as well.

'She's a masterful piece of engineering and it makes her so effortless to fly. It's impossible not to be exhilarated every time. She's a beast when you want her to be and tame when you need her to be. She's beautiful.

'The launch of the F35s from the HMS Queen Elizabeth is a once in a generation historical event. To be the first to fly off the carrier, to have a front row seat, would be an absolute privilege. It wouldn't just be about the pilot - there are hundreds of people who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen and the honour will be theirs too.'

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