AIR International – June 2018

(Jacob Rumans) #1


8 |

D-Day at Marham

History was made on the 74th anniversary of D-Day, when the UK’s fi rst four F-35B Lightning IIs
were delivered to their new home, RAF Marham. AIR International was there

ON A warm sunny day in June
hundreds of aviation enthusiasts
made their way to RAF Marham
in Norfolk to catch a glimpse of
Britain’s new combat aircraft, the
Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning
II. Many of them made the
journey the next day too because
the huge operation to bring the
aircraft across the Atlantic from
their erstwhile base, Marine Corps
Air Station Beaufort in South
Carolina was postponed for 24
hours because of bad weather
on the eastern seaboard of the
United States.

Although the Lightning is
eminently capable of fl ying in bad
weather, ejecting into a violent
ocean is rarely survivable so the
sea state had to be taken into
consideration by the mission
planners. For a while it looked as
though the British public would
have to wait another day because
the storm that caused Tuesday’s
delay had moved and there were
fears the weather was still too bad.
Happily, the transatlantic tanker-
trail of two Voyager tankers, KC
ZZ330 and KC3 ZZ335, one Atlas
C1 ZM401, which was providing

search and rescue cover for the
formation, and the four Lightnings
were able to skirt around the
weather and commit to crossing
the pond. Delivery day occurred
on June 6, the 74th anniversary of
D-day, the day when the liberation
of Europe from Nazi occupation
began with the allied landings on
the beaches of Normandy under
Operation Overlord.
At the end of a 4,000-mile
(6,440km) fl ight and years of
planning, the four jets appeared
overhead their new home at just
after 20:00hrs and, after a run-in

and break, made short, rolling
landings. After taxiing to the ramp
from where they will operate until
the infrastructure to support them
is ready, the four pilots performed
post-fl ight checks and shutdown.
Under Project Anvil, hundreds of
millions of pounds are being spent
on new infrastructure including
hangars, workshops, operations
headquarter for the new Lightning
Force, and three strengthened
landing pads for vertical landings.
Unsurprisingly, the welcome
committee comprised as well as
journalists and service personnel

The F-35’s one-piece, forward-opening windshield and canopy gleens in the
evening sunlight as ground crew open the aircraft’s maintenance interface panel
(to the left) and the crew access ladder panel (to the right). Jerry Gunner

A Royal Navy commander chats with one of the four pilots who delivered the fi rst
four UK F-35Bs from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina to RAF
Marham in Norfolk. Jerry Gunner

Two F-35B Lightning IIs taxi for the fi rst time from RAF
Marham’s new runway 01/19 on June 6, 2018. The
rebuilt 1,855m (6,086ft) runway was used for the fi rst
time a week before by one of the based Tornado GR4s.
Jerry Gunner
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