The head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, has visited the Lightning Force for the first time since the appointment of a new “Senior Service” commanding officer to an F-35B squadron.
ADML Radakin was joined by Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston as he toured the Norfolk base and met the RN and RAF personnel who make up the Lightning Force.
The two service chiefs visited the Integrated Training Centre to see where pilots are trained to fly the Lightning using the Full Mission Simulators and engineers are trained on the maintenance of the aircraft.
After this, they moved to 207 Squadron to see where the training continues with the pilots flying the jet for the first time. They were also briefed on how 207 have been supporting 617 Squadron in the build-up to their deployment to the carrier.
ADML Radakin said, “It was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to join CAS for the day at RAF Marham. Lightning is a truly game-changing fifth-generation aircraft that will transform our abilities in the air.”
Ahead of full operations in 2021, the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, F-35s and supporting units will be rigorously tested under realistic warfighting scenarios.
“But what is even more important is the way that the Royal Navy and RAF have been working together, alongside industry and our international partners, to deliver this.
“It is an enormous honour that the RAF has given command of 617 Squadron to a Royal Navy aviator and really underpins the extent to which we are completely integrated on this joint endeavour. This is one Lightning Force, delivering on behalf of Defence and the UK,” ADML Radakin added.
CMDR Sparrow, who took over the Dambusters from Wing Commander John Butcher, expanded on ADML Radakin’s statements, saying, “I am delighted to be commanding 617 Squadron and extremely proud to be the first Royal Navy officer to be selected to the position in its illustrious history.
“The next two years will see the potent combination of Lightning and the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers become jointly operational. I look forward to us playing a key part in the generation of both the Lightning Force and Carrier Strike Group’s capabilities,” CMDR Sparrow said.
Work continues to bring HMS Prince of Wales to life at Rosyth; HMS Queen Elizabeth has been undergoing sea trials – the vast flight deck and hangar can accommodate any helicopter in Britain’s military inventory.
From 2020, however, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force team punch will be delivered by the F-35B Lightning II, the world’s most advanced stealth fighter-bomber.
Both ships have been constructed in numerous shipyards in one of the most demanding and revolutionary shipbuilding programs ever undertaken, with the pieces being slotted together in a specially extended dry dock at Rosyth on the Forth to create two 65,000-ton leviathans.