The United Kingdom is to reconstitute 207 Squadron as the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The disclosure on 5 July makes 207 OCU Squadron the third operational F-35B unit to be announced by the United Kingdom, after 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron and 809 ‘Immortals’ Naval Air Squadron (NAS). All three units will be located at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham in Norfolk, which will be the type’s main operating station.
RAF and Royal Navy (RN) F-35B personnel are currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in South Carolina, and 17 Reserve Squadron is conducting operational test and evaluation duties at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
As the first operational unit, 617 Squadron will be officially stood up on its arrival at RAF Marham in 2018. The second operational unit, 809 NAS, will be stood up in 2023. Another two frontline units are set to be formed during the course of the programme.
To date, the United Kingdom has received five test and training aircraft and has 10 operational jets under contract. It has a total requirement for 138 to equip the new Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers for the RN, and to augment and eventually replace the Eurofighter Typhoon for the RAF.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to Jane's in February that it had signed the initial Release to Service (RtS) for the F-35B, setting out the safe operating envelope for the type. This was a significant milestone in the United Kingdom's programme in that it allowed for peacetime training of pilots on the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft, including for the first time ab initio students.
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