Senior RAF Marham officer thinks Joint Strike Fighter coming to base would be “superb”

Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, commanding officer of 31 Squadron, looks forward to seeing the Tornado replacement in action.

A senior officer at RAF Marham has said it would be 'superb' if Norfolk's last RAF flying base becomes the new be the new home for the next generation of hi-tech military jets.

Wing Commander Jim Mulholland, commanding officer of 31 Squadron, added he is a 'massive supporter' of the local community around the RAF base and hinted he hoped the area will one day hear the sound of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) flying overhead.

The Wing Commander's comments come after it emerged RAF Marham is on a shortlist of stations battling to host the JSF fleet when it is brought into service in around 2020 and replace the Tornado GR4 planes, currently based at Marham. It is widely expected that the new fleet will be housed at a single UK base.

Speaking to the EDP, he said: 'On a personal level, I'm a navigator so I won't be in the Joint Strike fighter .

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'But I have spent three tours here at Marham and I am a massive supporter of the local community so for me, on a personal level, if the joint strike fighter came here that would be a superb thing to see.'

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.

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RAF Marham is one of Norfolk's 10 largest employers and has in the region of 5,000 people and brings around �130m to the area's economy.

Wing Cmdr Mulholland added: 'The Tornado is coming up to celebrating its 30th anniversary year. In terms of how it has developed over that time, it used to be a Tornado GR1 and now we have the GR4 which has had quite a significant upgrade in terms of capability.

'While it looks like the same aircraft we had 30 years ago, it is significantly different in what it can deliver.

'The new aircraft that are going to come onto line around 2020, the Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter, are both exceptionally capable platforms and the Tornado will be phased out in time.

'But for the moment, while we are still here and waiting for the capabilities to build up for the Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter, this is exactly the right platform to have. It's very flexible and is very precise in what it can do.'

The JSF 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.

Members of RAF Marham's 31 Squadron also handed over cheques totalling almost �40,000 to Help for Heroes, Tickets for Troops and Epilepsy Action yesterday.

The squadron's air and ground crews ran, cycled and rowed 54,000 miles during their four month tour at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan last year to raise the money.

The total amount raised and distance covered came as shock to many members of the squadron as they had only set out to cover 31,000 miles and raise �31,000 to match their squadron number.

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