A multi-million pound transformation of a West Norfolk air base is on track to see the new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets arrive at their new home next year.
Project Anvil, so named to reflect the type of lightning, will see a number of new buildings and runways built at RAF Marham to accommodate the jets – a number of which are in progress at the moment.
Air Commodore David Bradshaw, Lightning force commander, said yesterday: “I will be here for the next two years, which will be an incredibly exciting period. This investment in Marham secures its future for decades to come.”
At its peak, there are expected to be around 1,200 people working on project Anvil at any one time.
Group Captain Rich Davies, RAF Marham station commander, who is set to leave the position in two weeks, said: “My legacy will probably be the last Tornado commander. My replacement will bring Lightning into service.”
He will hand over to new Group Captain Ian Townsend on July 31.
The base is working in conjunction with contractors Balfour Beatty, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin to complete the necessary infrastructure – which includes the National Operating Centre, which will be the headquarters of the new squadron, a maintenance and finishing facility plus an integrated training centre.
Dean Burgess, Balfour Beatty’s regional managing director, said: “We have about 300 people on site now – 50 per cent of our workers are employed locally. Our target is about 30 per cent and we’re maxing on that.”
Mr Burgess said Balfour Beatty had extended their partnership with the College of West Anglia for apprenticeships and graduate schemes.
A small number of Lightning jets are expected to arrive from America in August 2018.
They will be flown by the reformed 617 Squadron, which was made famous by the Dambusters bombing raids of the Second World War.