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RAF Marham warns it faces competition to hold onto talented staff as it prepares for arrival of F-35B Lightning aircraft

PUBLISHED: 08:47 28 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:47 28 March 2018

A Tornado GR4 taking off at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

A Tornado GR4 taking off at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

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A key military base in Norfolk faces a challenge holding onto its talented aircraft crews and engineers as it prepares to upgrade to the new hi-tech F-35 fighter aircraft.

RAF Marham Wing Commander James Heap made the comments in a special edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which is is being broadcast from the airbase this morning.

The base, which has been the home to the Tornado aircraft since 1990, is preparing for what it calls a “momentous year” when nine of the F-35B Lightning plan es which will touch down at Marham as part of 617 Sqn in mid-2018.

After taking Today programme presenter Sarah Montague on a flight in a Tornado from Marham to Merseyside, Wng Cmdr Heap said: “The Tornado has been the bedrock of the RAF since it first entered service in 1982 and have continually been deployed on operations from Marham since 1990.”

However he said: “The important thing is while the aircraft might be retiring, the people aren’t.”

He said the most important people in that operation are the aircraft crews and engineers who make the planes run are key to the base, adding: “My challenge is holding onto them.

“Their operational experience means they are highly sought after.”

Wng Cmdr Heap also talked about the £500m investment taking place at RAF Marham in preparation for the F-35, including resurfacing the runway which will continue throughout this year.

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