RAF Marham jets take part in Arctic war games amid Russia tensions

The first F-35 B Lightning stealth aircraft piloted by Wing Commnder John Butcher touches down at RA

F35 Lightning jets at RAF Marham will be equipped with a new missile which can hit its target from 85 miles away - Credit: Ian Burt

Norfolk's Dambusters have taken part in simulated air battles as part of one of the biggest NATO exercises since the end of the Cold War.

More than 2,000 UK personnel are among 30,000 from 27 nations who have been taking part in Exercise Cold Response in Norway.

They include airmen and women from RAF Marham-based 617 Squadron - the Dambusters - whose Lightning F-35 stealth fighters showed their teeth in practice dogfights.

The exercise comes at a time of mounting tensions between NATO and Russia, over Moscow's decision to invade Ukraine.

During the voyage north, the Marham jets staged a mock air battle over the North Sea orchestrated by two Royal Navy fighter controllers on aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales against eight "aggressor" aircraft.

HMS Prince of Wales has been designated NATO's flagship leading its maritime high readiness force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events – and deploys for the first time in that role to Cold Response.

The ship has been taking the lead in a scenario where Norway is attacked, triggering a joint response from NATO.

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A NATO spokesman said: "It's all about training vital skills, making sure that our armed forces are prepared to respond to any threat or crisis – and keep our countries and people safe.

"Cold Response 2022 is bringing together allies from Europe and North America, demonstrating the enduring transatlantic bond at the heart of NATO."

The war games involving more than 200 aircraft and 50 ships took place along NATO's northern flank. 

The alliance said: "Cold Response 2022 is a long-planned and regular exercise, which Norway hosts biannually. This year's exercise was announced over eight months ago.

"It is not linked to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,  which NATO is responding to with preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory measures."

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: "The Arctic is becoming an area of increasing military competition and the security of the region is directly linked to our national security.

"Exercise Cold Response is a demonstration of NATO’s ability to both operate and compete in one of the harshest environments in the world and is demonstration of how a multinational force would defend Europe’s northern flank."