RAF Marham's £500 Million Upgrade For F-35 Stealth Jets

Multimillion-pound building works are underway as Britain's armed forces prepare for the arrival of the first batch of stealth fighter jets.

Multimillion-pound building works are underway as RAF Marham prepares for the arrival of the UK's first batch of stealth fighter jets.

The Norfolk base will become the main operating facility of the F-35B Lightning II warplanes - with nine of the aircraft set to touch down next summer.

As part of the £500 million investment, a national operating centre - the headquarters for the Lightning Force - has been constructed and will be the first building to be handed over in early 2018.

A maintenance and finishing facility has also been built, which will provide an eight-bay hangar for engineering maintenance purposes, plus somewhere to paint the jets.

There is also an integrated training centre, which will house four full mission simulators and ground crew training facilities.

RAF Marham Upgrade Tornado - PA Image

During the ongoing work, the base has remained operational to the Tornado jets stationed there - apart from a three-week period when the runway intersection was resurfaced, grounding all flights.

The 9,000ft asphalt runway, that the Tornados are currently using, will be refurbished and resurfaced once the shorter one is completed.

Alongside the work on the runways and taxiways, three new vertical landing pads are being constructed using high-temperature resistant concrete.

F-35B Lightning

Next summer will see the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots who are currently training in the United States, return as 617 Squadron, the Dambusters.

The Dambusters of 1943 were crews of British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and American personnel who conducted a night of bombing raids on German dams.

But the new 617 Squadron will be a combined team of Royal Navy and RAF personnel who will fly from both land and sea.

They will be based from RAF Marham and deployed on the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers - forming an integral part of the Carrier Strike Group.

Air Commodore David Bradshaw, Lightning Force commander, said he is enjoying seeing the infrastructure "appearing out of the Marham mud at such a phenomenal rate".

He said 2018 is "going to be an exciting year" with the centenary of the RAF and the 75th anniversary of 617 Squadron.

"We put those together, and it is the year the squadron is building up to be deployable on operations - it is so exciting, it is going to be quite a year."

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