The Royal Air Force has today announced that 617 Squadron, the famous ‘Dambusters’, will be the first operational squadron using Lightning II aircraft.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton made the 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 is to disband on 1st April next year, as part of the planned drawdown of the Tornado GR4 force. It will then reform in 2016, taking delivery of the highly advanced Lightning II.
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, together with the battle-proven Typhoon force, will complement each others capabilities and set the base-line for UK Combat ISTAR2 air power as a contemporary global force for the 2020s and beyond.
“Lightning shall be operated jointly by the 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.”
The UK’s Lightning II is the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which will give the supersonic multi-role stealth aircraft the ability to operate from land or sea. When it reforms in 2016, 617 Squadron will have both RAF and Royal Navy personnel. The next squadron will carry a Royal Navy squadron number but be similarly jointly manned.
Photographs: Lockheed Martin