March 25, 2013 (by UK MOD) - The UK's Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft will be based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced today.
On July 19th, 2012 the United Kingdom took delivery of its first F-35 Lightning II jet during a ceremony at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. The jet (BK-1) is an F-35B STOVL model. [Lockheed Martin photo]
The Lightning II is the most advanced jet our Armed Forces have ever operated and the decision to base it at RAF Marham has secured the future of the base. The decision will also mean new investment and infrastructure to make RAF Marham the Main Operating Base for the aircraft.
Lightning II will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and the aircraft will operate from the Navy's new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers as well as from RAF Marham.
The Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, visited RAF Marham this morning to view the facilities and talk to personnel ahead of the announcement.
Marham decision "makes strategic sense"
Speaking from RAF Marham, Mr Hammond said:
"This is the next step in the restructuring of the Armed Forces, providing them with the world's most capable combat aircraft. Basing the new Lightning II at RAF Marham makes strategic sense and best use of the resources available. It also secures the future of one of the UK’s most operationally-experienced bases."
"The Lightning II is the most advanced jet our Armed Forces have ever operated, and carries on the tradition of the Harrier, while having far greater range, payload and defensive capability. Now this decision has been taken, we can start the planning and infrastructure investment required for RAF Marham's future."
RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain David Cooper said:
"I am delighted that the Secretary of State today announced that RAF Marham is selected as the Lightning II Base. This is excellent news for my personnel, for the local community and region, and for the Royal Air Force and UK Defence."
Lightning II update
The UK’s first 2 Lightning II aircraft are currently participating in the US test programme and will remain in the US. We expect to receive front line aircraft from 2015 onwards with an initial operating capability from land in 2018, followed by first of class flights from HMS Queen Elizabeth later that year.
The original intention (announced in 2005) was to base the aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth. Following the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, a number of changes have occurred that justified a further review of the basing options for Lightning II; these include RAF Lossiemouth becoming the new home of the UK's Typhoon fleet, while the out of service date for the Tornado GR4, currently based at RAF Marham, has been brought forward to 2019.