UK confirms Norfolk home for F-35 squadrons

In what must be one of 2013′s least surprising announcements, the UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that its future fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will be operated from the Royal Air Force’s Marham base in Norfolk. Here’s a Lockheed Martin shot showing one of the UK’s test aircraft, during its first speaking engagement last year.

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Way-back-when, the MoD had intended to base its F-35s in Scotland, but in a 25 March announcement about “defence estate rationalisation” it says Marham is a better option. The reasons, it says, are that RAF Lossiemouth will instead eventually house three squadrons of Eurofighter Typhoons, while the gradual run-down of the Tornado GR4 force over the next several years will free up space at the English site.

Marham had been tipped openly, publicly and repeatedly by defence officials as likely to become the home for the RAF and Royal Navy F-35 squadrons, and land-based initial operating capability is expected during 2018. Operations from the RN’s first Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier should then commence in 2020, although Portsmouth isn’t exactly on East Anglia’s doorstep.

There are some other angles of interest to be drawn from the latest phase of the UK’s basing review. Northern quick reaction alert sorties using the Typhoon will be flown from Lossiemouth from “summer 2014″, with the type’s move from its current home at RAF Leuchars to be completed in autumn of the same year. The service’s Church Fenton base in North Yorkshire will shut by the end of 2013, while flight training activities at Wyton in Cambridgeshire will cease by mid-2014.


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One Response to UK confirms Norfolk home for F-35 squadrons

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