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The Dambusters of 617 Sqn - to become first frontline RAF Squadron

July 18, 2013 (by Asif Shamim) - The world famous 'Dambusters' of 617 Squadron will become the first RAF frontline squadron to get the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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 head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton will make the announcement today that the squadron will transfer to the F-35 after the retirement of its Tornado GR4's on April 1, 2014.

Air Chief Marshal Dalton said "I am delighted to announce that 617 Squadron’s outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s air power, past and present, will unequivocally continue when it reforms as the UK’s first operational F-35B Lightning II squadron".

"The Lightning’s state-of-the-art stealth and precision target capabilities and the battle-proven Typhoon Force will complement each other and set the baseline for UK combat intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance air power as a contemporary global force for the 2020s and beyond".

The Squadron has a very distinguished history dating back to1943 when formed for the famous raids on the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany during World War II. More recently the squadron has seen service over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Official sources from the MoD said: “The Dambusters have a strong heritage and special place in the nation’s history.

617 Squadron will transfer from their current base at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland to RAF Marham in Norfolk, where the squadron will receive upto 16 of the F-35 jets when they reform in 2016. It is expected the squadron will then fly-off the Navy's new £6.2billion Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers.

The second squadron of F-35s will be formed by the Royal Navy. Both forces will jointly operate the 48 Joint Strike Fighters purchased by the MoD.

Each Joint Strike fighter costs in the region of £71 million with the first 3 examples already under testing at Eglins AFB in the United States.