F-35B jets arrive at Marham
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F-35B UK Arrival 'Felt Absolutely Brilliant'

Pilots have been talking about what it was like to fly four of the aircraft from the US to their new UK home.

F-35B jets arrive at Marham

Pilots who landed Britain's new F-35B aircraft on UK soil have been talking about what it was like to fly the jets across the Atlantic Ocean.

The multimillion-pound stealth fighter jets touched down on Wednesday evening at RAF Marham.

The supersonic aircraft have been stationed at US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina since their manufacture, where they have been tested and used for training by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.

On Wednesday, they crossed the Atlantic to become permanently stationed in the UK.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, greeted the pilots as they climbed out of their cockpits. He congratulated them and praised their achievement:

"It’s a historic moment and I’ve congratulated the pilots on a long transit across the Atlantic but it’s great to see them back here at RAF Marham.

"Nine tanker brackets, 4,000 miles across the Atlantic - what that demonstrates is the skill and professionalism of our pilots and our engineers."

F-35B arrival a "historic moment" - Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier.

Landing at RAF Marham in Norfolk, the new home base of the UK F-35B fleet, the officer commanding 617 squadron, Wing Commander John Butcher, said it was a good flight across from the United States:

"What a day, what an opportunity for us to show the F-35 off.

"It was a good flight across from the United States, the weather was in our favour and it felt absolutely brilliant bringing the jets back here today."

The sortie lasted more than eight-and-a-half hours and included nine refuelling serials.

Asked how important arriving in Marham is in terms of his wider career, Wg Cdr Butcher said:

"This is probably the biggest moment in my RAF career to date.

"It is a hugely prideful moment to see 617 squadron at RAF Marham."

Reports have suggested that the effective cost of each plane is as much as £150 million when logistics and support are taken into account.

Quizzed on what he would say to the critics who may question the cost of the jets, Wg Cdr Butcher said: "The combat capability that the F-35 brings is absolutely exceptional.

"When you are looking to have the fighting edge you need F-35 and certainly F-35B - working Royal Air Force and Royal Navy side by side - gives us that combat air advantage and we can do it from the land and sea.

"That is really what makes it different."

Another of the F-35B pilots Lieutenant Commander Adam Hogg said he was pleased to be back in Britain with the jets:

"It's a great moment.

"We may be the pilots that arrived here today, but there's been a lot of people to enable us getting here."

The jets will be jointly flown by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and will operate from land and sea, including off the decks of the new £3.1 billion Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.

617 squadron will now spend the next six months working towards declaring initial operating capability from land by the end of December.

Five more UK F-35B jets are expected to arrive from the US at RAF Marham by the beginning of August.