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New F-35 Lightning jets at RAF Marham ready to be deployed around the world, Defence Secretary announces on visit to base

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The latest fighter jets based at RAF Marham have been declared ready for operations as the latest phase of the £550 million investment in the base was unveiled.

The announcement was made today during a visit by the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, who opened a new hangar and training centre at the station.

And more of the new F-35 Lightning planes are expected to arrive in West Norfolk over the coming months.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson at RAF Marham. (6443517)
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson at RAF Marham. (6443517)

Mr Williamson said continuing investment in defence capability was a message to Britain’s would-be enemies that the nation stands ready to defend itself and its allies.

The current nine Lightning jets were described as “ready to fly and ready to fight” at the heart of a revamped combat air fleet which also includes revamped Typhoon jets, following a separate project worth more than £400 million.

“This gives Britain the cutting edge capability in order for us to be able to strike our enemies from afar to keep the British people safe at home”, he said.

“Our huge achievements in air capability make our commitment to a role on the world stage clear to both our allies and our enemies.

“The RAF has long shown Britain at its great and global best, and today it lifts our nation to even greater heights.”

Wing Commander John Butcher, commanding officer of the base’s current 617 Squadron of F-35s, said the announcement of land-based operational capability was a “huge day” for the station, the area and the country.

He said: “For Marham, it’s the culmination of work going back almost two years preparing for this. It’s a huge moment for the county.”

A second squadron of Lightnings, the 207, is due to arrive at Marham this summer, before the 617 Squadron begins testing of sea-based capabilities this autumn, aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

That work, to enable the jets to be deployed at sea as well as from land, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

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