Project Anvil brings 1,200 jobs to Norfolk, as RAF Marham upgrade takes off
- Credit: Archant
More than 1,000 jobs are landing at RAF Marham as the base undergoes its biggest upgrade since the Second World War.
A £250m investment is being made in buildings, runways and other infrastructure on the Norfolk air base as it prepares for the arrival of the most advanced warplane ever built for UK armed forces.
Work is under way on the headquarters for the F35 Lightning force, a giant hangar where the aircraft will be maintained and a training centre where air and ground crews will learn about the aircraft. The transformation of one of ther RAF's key stations has been code-named Project Anvil.
Group Capt Ann Gibson, head of the Lightning basing team, said: 'At the peak of it, we think there's going to be 1,200 people working on Anvil at any one time.
'The MoD does encourage all its contractors to use local employees. I do know there are a lot of local subcontractors involved.'
Balfour Beatty, one of the principal building contractors, has secured work worth £80m on Anvil's three massive buildings.
Dean Burgess, its regional managing director, said it would have up to 500 employees on site, 50pc of them hired locally.
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'We set ourselves a target of 30pc and we're maxing on that,' he said. 'We've extended our partnership with the College of West Anglia, we've got apprenticeship schemes and graduate schemes.'
The massive hangar which will house the Lightning has been built on the site of a hangar which housed Wellington and Stirling bombers during the Second World War. Group Capt Gibson said the refurbishment was the largest Marham had seen since then.
Station commander Group Capt Rich Davies, who leaves the base in two weeks' time, has spent 24 of his 27 years in the RAF flying the Tornados which have been based at Marham since the early 1980s.
'I'm probably the last true Tornado station commander,' he said. 'I will hand over to a new station commander whose job will be to take that aircraft out of service whilst bringing a new aircraft into service.'
Air Commodore David Bradshaw, commander of the F35 Lightning force, said: 'The F35 Lightning is the most cutting edge piece of technology that exists in the world.
'Having it here at RAF Marham secures the future of RAF Marham, which the local community is very happy about.'
The first buildings are expected to be completed by next summer, when the first Lightnings arrive in Norfolk flown by 617 Sqn, aka the Dambusters.
A naval air squadron will also be based at Marham - bringing the biggest deployment of the Senior Service Nelson's County has seen.