RAF Marham on shortlist to house new Joint Strike Fighter jets
Norfolk's last RAF flying base is on a shortlist of stations battling to be the new home for the next generation of hi-tech military jets, it emerged last night.
A number of RAF bases have already been ruled out of hosting the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fleet with defence chiefs now focusing on suitable stations.
The JSF F35 will replace the Tornado GR4 planes, currently based at Marham, when it is brought into service around 2020 and it is widely expected that the new fleet will be housed at a single UK base.
Marham's short-term future was guaranteed by the government last year following the successful Make it Marham campaign, which was spearheaded by the EDP.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman last night confirmed there were 'certain bases that were not suitable' to be the new home of the JSF because of their size - an issue that doesn't effect RAF Marham.
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The news comes after a Norfolk MP kept up the pressure to ensure the RAF base's long-term future.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss met defence secretary Phillip Hammond on Tuesday evening to further press for information on the future basing of the jet.
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She said: 'It was a positive meeting but in terms of getting a clearer view of a time frame for the JSF and where it will be based, there was no more information.
'The only impression I got from our meeting was that the decision on the basing of the JSF is not immediate.
'I reiterated the case for Marham to him. I emphasised the tremendous support RAF Marham has locally. Marham also has the strategic and engineering capabilities to support the Joint Strike Fighter and proximity to training grounds and US bases places it in a good position.
'What I will try to do now is get the secretary of state to come to Norfolk and visit RAF Marham and see the brilliant facilities there for himself.
'Given that the [Typhoon] Eurofighter has gone to Lossiemouth, RAF Marham should be a main contender to be the home of the JSF.'
The new frontline jet is a multi-national project to develop a completely new stealth fighter. The UK has three being tested in America.
An MoD spokesman has said the final number ordered has yet to be decided and the cost has not been revealed as it would 'depend on a number of factors, including the number which are ordered'.
But it is believed the RAF will eventually end up with between 60 and 80 of the new Lockheed jets to replace a GR4 and GR4A fleet of around 135. Together with the Typhoon, which has recently come into commission, the JSF would be the UK's frontline in terms of air power.