The Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron has been officially reformed as the UK’s first Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) unit.
A formal ceremony was held on 17 April in Washington, DC, which saw the new commanding officer, Wing Commander John Butcher ask permission from the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, to reform the squadron. Though an RAF unit, the reconstituted 617 Squadron will be staffed by personnel from both the RAF and the Royal Navy (RN).
Currently located in the United States, 617 Squadron is due to transfer to its future homebase at RAF Marham in the UK in the coming weeks, ahead of the start of sea trials aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth before the end of the year.
With the RAF’s 617 Squadron now reformed as the UK’s first operational F-35 unit, the RN’s 809 ‘Immortals’ Naval Air Squadron (NAS) will join it as the second operational unit in 2023. Both of these will be served by 207 Squadron as the type’s Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
The UK has to date received 15 of its planned 138 F-35 jets (this number will be procured over the life of the programme and will not all be fielded at one time).
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