F-35B

The original Dambusters would be "quite amazed" by Britain's new cutting-edge warplane, the commander of the reformed 617 Squadron has said.

Wing Commander John Butcher recently completed his first flight inside the multi-million-pound stealth F-35B jet.

The 37-year-old described the experience as "something else".

617 Squadron was originally created to carry out one of the most daring raids during the Second World War, and, for the period, used cutting-edge techniques and aircraft.

When asked what original members of the Squadron may have thought about the jets, he said they would be "quite amazed".

He added that the unusual piece of technology would "really chime with them".

"They were formed nearly 75 years ago for a very special purpose, and that was to bring cutting-edge technology into service for a very special mission."

"And for me, I can see a lot of parallels with what we are being asked to do now.

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"We are bringing very special technology into service - once again for a very, very special mission, which is to bring stealth and combat air capability to UK defence.

"I think there is a nice link there between what our forefathers did with 617 Squadron, and what we are now doing."

Three weeks ago Wg Cdr Butcher, who has been in the RAF for 19 years, climbed into the cockpit of the F-35 for the first time:

"It was absolutely fantastic... getting into the aeroplane for the first time and experiencing flying the F-35, was just something else.

"It was a real thrill to finally fly this aircraft and it certainly exceeded my expectations.

"The capabilities and potential of this aircraft are immense and this is a very exciting time to be a fast jet pilot."

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Wg Cdr Butcher has been based at US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on America's east coast since August.

He had to undertake weeks of ground school training before his first flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

British pilots are currently in South Carolina alongside the US Marine Corps.

Despite being away from his family, father-of-three Wg Cdr Butcher said his wife has been "very supportive" and is also excited about the flight:

"She knows that it is an absolute privilege to be in this position, and she is absolutely my rock in terms of us being able to achieve this."

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Having previously flown Harriers off the deck of HMS Illustrious and the F/A-18 Hornet off two US aircraft carriers, he said is looking forward to landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.

"It will be fantastic to then add a third aircraft to another class of aircraft carrier and an absolute privilege to do that and to lead 617 Squadron as it takes on that new venture," he added.

Describing the difference between the Harriers and Hornets with the F-35s, he said it is "really different" - with the new jets "exceptionally smart" about their own capabilities.

The UK currently has 13 F-35s in the United States being tested ahead of flight trials off the ship late next year - with one more plane being delivered by the end of 2017.

Pictures courtesy of the Ministry of Defence. 

The original dambusters
PICTURED: The Original Dambusters

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