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Plane spotters gather around Marham to see F-35 Lightning

Plane spotters hope to see the F-35 touch down at RAF Marham today. Picture: Master Sgt Eric Burks

Plane spotters hope to see the F-35 touch down at RAF Marham today. Picture: Master Sgt Eric Burks

Archant

Gathered in gateways and the corners of fields, they scanned the distant runways for any sign of activity.

Plane spotters were gathering around Marham this afternoon for the anticipated arrival of the F-35 Lightnings at the base.

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Retired shop worker Richard had travelled up from Ashford, in Kent, in the hope of a glimpse.

“I’ve been doing if for 50 years since I was a kid,” he said. “Now I’m retired, I’ve got plenty of time to do it.”

Like others we spoke to, he did not want to give his full name.

“It’s the MOD police, I don’t want it going on a database,” he said. “This is a free country, I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Spotters chase warbirds like twitchers hunt down species of the feathered variety for their tick-lists. Right now, the F-35 is the biggest tick in town.

“It’s a new plane I need to clear the decks of,” added Richard.

Retired police officer Alan, 60, had driven from Reading, Berks, to Marham, in the hope of adding another plane to his tick-list.

“It’s just to see the F-35 coming in for the first time,” he said. “I’ve been doing this ever since I was a kid.”

Alan’s iPad tracks a Voyager flying tanker heading up the US eastern seaboard, before turning east for the Atlantic.

“It’s pretty obvious that’s the tanker that’s going to support them,” he added.

Stealth bombers can not be tracked by Alan’s app, so he did not know for certain whether the F-35s would be following the tanker eastwards.

The Lightnings are expected to make the flight across the Atlantic to their new home today.

As yet, no timings have been made public. But Norfolk plane spotter Sue, 73, said those living around the base would be in no doubt when they did rock up.

“I think they’re fantastic,” she said. “But I don’t think Swaffham knows what’s going to hit it, they’re so noisy.”

Sue, who lives in the nearby town, is a regular on the perimeter at both Marham and RAF Lakenheath. She caught the plane bug from her mother.

There were no F-35s this afternoon. But its predecessor the Tornado GR4 made the occasional sortie, as anticipation soared sky-high.

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