18 July 2013 Ministry of Defence
The Royal Air Force's famous 'Dambusters' will be the first operational UK squadron to use the Lightning II aircraft.
The Lightning II is the short take-off and vertical landing UK variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – a supersonic multi-role stealth aircraft with the ability to operate from land or sea.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, made today’s announcement at a Royal United Services Institute conference on air power.
In a speech to senior representatives of air forces from around the world, Sir Stephen explained that 617 Squadron, known as the ‘Dambusters’, are to disband on 1 April 2014 as part of the planned drawdown of the Tornado GR4 Force. The squadron will then reform in 2016 with both RAF and Royal Navy personnel and take delivery of the highly advanced Lightning II.
The next Lightning II squadron to stand up will carry a Royal Navy squadron number but be similarly jointly manned.
Air Chief Marshal Dalton said:
I am delighted to announce that 617 Squadron’s outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s air power, past and present, will unequivocally continue when it reforms as the UK’s first operational F-35B Lightning II squadron.
The Lightning’s state-of-the-art stealth and precision target capabilities and the battle-proven Typhoon Force will complement each other and set the baseline for UK combat intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance air power as a contemporary global force for the 2020s and beyond.
Lightning will be operated jointly by Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm pilots from land or from the Queen Elizabeth Class carrier – overall, a hugely flexible and futuristic joint capability.