617 Squadron, The Dambusters, have returned to RAF Marham at the conclusion of the Carrier Strike Group 21. The arrival of the Squadron’s Lightnings stealth jets comes ahead of the return to Portsmouth of the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth when remaining RAF personnel will be reunited with their families.
"Today we pay tribute to the 3,700 personnel in the Carrier Strike Group that have been our global ambassadors on this historic and ground-breaking deployment. The personnel and their families have made considerable sacrifices to make this deployment the success it has been. We thank them for all their efforts in strengthening our relationships with our allies and partners around the world."
During the seven-month deployment the Carrier Strike Group visited or exercised with 44 countries, crossing three oceans and five seas, and sailing 49,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back. The 617 Squadron F-35s also made over 3,000 deck landings.
"Throughout the past 7 months HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Strike Group have been furthering the UK’s interests and strengthening our partnerships around the globe. With involvement from across the Armed Forces, and our allies integrated throughout, this deployment has been a truly joint, truly international endeavour, which represents the very best of Global Britain. I thank everyone involved for their efforts to make this deployment such a resounding success, and I wish our returning sailors, aviators, soldiers and marines a very happy reunion with their families this Christmas."
Admiral Sir Radakin
Chief of the Defence Staff
"It has been fantastic to command 617 Squadron as we deployed in HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of Operation FORTIS. I am immensely proud of every single member of the squadron and the way they have conducted themselves throughout the deployment, especially given the length of time away from home and operating from sea. We have had a fantastic opportunity to develop the Carrier Strike capability, working closely with all onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth as well as other ships as part of the Strike Group and with many other nations from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. This has enabled us to really put the F-35 through her paces and prove that the aircraft is at the cutting edge of defence. As we return to Marham the people that we really must thank is our Families and Friends who have supported us throughout our time away. We are all very much looking forward to Christmas and spending some well-deserved down time with our loved ones."
Officer Commanding 617 Squadron
"It was great to welcome home the pilots of 617 Squadron as they flew back from HMS Queen Elizabeth and then the remaining personnel that sailed back into Portsmouth returning home to their families on Friday where they started their well-deserved Christmas leave. This deployment required our personnel to be away from their loved ones for over 7 months and I am extremely proud of everything that they have achieved during that time, especially with the challenges they have faced with a global pandemic. We must also thank the families of those deployed whose support has been crucial to the success of this deployment. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."
Group Captain Marr
RAF Marham, Station Commander
The most significant peacetime deployment in a quarter of a century, Carrier Strike Group 21 has been more than just a military endeavour, bringing together elements of defence, diplomacy and prosperity and flying the flag for Global Britain.