The East of England will receive a further boost as the hub for the UK’s future combat aircraft fleet, with hundreds of millions of pounds invested to help prepare for the arrival of the UK’s first F-35B Lightning II front-line fighter jet squadron.
More than £300 million will be invested at RAF Marham, funding extensive work on infrastructure and facilities which will begin by the end of the year. This will create up to 1000 new additional jobs directly in the construction phase and a further 700 in the supply chain.
The East of England will also become the heart of US European Joint Strike Fighter operations. Alongside the UK F-35s based at RAF Marham, RAF Lakenheath on the Norfolk-Suffolk will become home to the first two US F-35 squadrons in Europe, with the first aircraft due to arrive in 2020.
The move means that for the first time in decades the US Air Force and the RAF will operate the same type of aircraft from the UK. This highlights the strength of our shared commitment to transatlantic security and paves the way for the next generation of continued close collaboration between our respective forces.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
The East of England has a proud military tradition and today’s announcement is fantastic news for the 4,500 people employed at RAF Marham and the region as a whole.
This is a clear example of how the decisions we have made as part of our long-term economic plan are enabling us to invest, creating the jobs, growth and investment that will benefit hard-working people here in Marham and across the UK.
The F-35 will not only operate from RAF Marham, but will also be deployed onboard the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers from 2018. This will give the RAF and Royal Navy a chance to continue opportunities for training and wider support partnerships, including flight training simulation.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
RAF Marham has long played an important role in UK Defence. A Tornado jet squadron from the base is currently flying out of RAF Akrotiri, making – alongside the US - one of the biggest contributions to the coalition airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.
Looking towards the future, the UK’s investment in F-35 will deliver a fifth generation aircraft that will provide a step change in the UK’s combat air capability when it takes over from Tornado towards the end of the decade.
Over 18,000 MOD personnel are already employed in the East of England region, and work is ongoing to establish the personnel requirements to sustain the new RAF Marham configuration. More widely, the MoD invested around £200 million in the region in 2013/2014, working on Defence projects with companies including BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce and Thales.