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RAF, RAAF reform respective 80 Sqns as US-based F-35 data centres

The chiefs of the RAF and RAAF reconstituting their respective 80 Squadrons during a joint ceremony at Eglin AFB in the US. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) stood up their respective 80 Squadrons on 17 April to serve as US-based data units for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Announced by the RAF, the two separate but linked squadrons were reconstituted during a joint ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida.

“At the event, the [UK] Chief of the Air Staff, [Air Chief Marshal] Sir Richard Knighton, and [Australian] Chief of the Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman, formally awarded the dormant 80 Squadron number plates for each service to their respective teams within the Australia, Canada, and United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory [ACURL],” the RAF said.

The ACURL is used to develop, verify, and validate mission data files and allows Australia, Canada, and the UK to reprogramme F-35 mission data to quickly execute sovereign missions. It has been specifically founded to support the Block 4 configuration that will enable the F-35 to employ its full panoply of sensors and munitions. According to a March 2023 US Department of Defense (DoD) contract notification, the laboratory should be fully functional by the end of 2029.

“F-35 warfighting capability in Europe and the Indo-Pacific is dependent on how well the specialist personnel at 80 Squadron continue to ‘sharpen the spear' together in their work here in Florida. Co-location of the whole F-35 reprogramming enterprise at Eglin AFB provides a unique opportunity to integrate with our closest F-35 partners to the fullest extent, it's an opportunity that wouldn't exist if we were at home alone,” ACM Knighton said at the event.

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