News story

Royal Navy air squadron reformed to fly new jets

A historic naval air squadron is to be resurrected as the first Royal Navy formation to fly the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

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A Lightning II aircraft being prepared for take-off at Eglin Air Force Base (library image) [Picture: Crown copyright]
A Lightning II aircraft being prepared for take-off at Eglin Air Force Base

809 Naval Air Squadron, whose motto is simply ‘Immortal’, is to be reformed to operate the fifth-generation stealth aircraft that will fly from the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Class carriers from 2018.

The Lightning II aircraft will be jointly operated by pilots from the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force.

Earlier this year, it was announced by the Chief of the Air Staff that the famous 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron would be the first RAF squadron to fly the jets.

The 809 Naval Air Squadron crest
The 809 Naval Air Squadron crest [Picture: Crown copyright]

Both Royal Navy and RAF pilots are already training on the Lightning II aircraft alongside the US Marine Corps at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

809 Naval Air Squadron, which dates back to the Second World War, has been selected by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, because of its history of striking at the enemy in operations across the globe.

In previous incarnations, aircraft from the squadron supported an attack on Hitler’s flagship, supported the invasions of North Africa, Italy and southern France during the Second World War and saw action in Suez in 1956.

It was last reformed to support operations in the Falkland Islands; the squadron also flew the Navy’s last Buccaneer, a low-level strike bomber flown in the 1960s and 1970s.

An 809 Naval Air Squadron Buccaneer
An 809 Naval Air Squadron Buccaneer landing on HMS Ark Royal in 1977 (library image) [Picture: Crown copyright]

Admiral Zambellas said:

I am delighted to announce that the name of the second Lightning II squadron, when it forms, will be 809 Naval Air Squadron.

This squadron number is chosen to link with and reflect the proud and distinguished history of embarked carrier strike, from the Second World War to the Falklands.

The early naming of 809 alongside the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron is a very visible demonstration of a joint ambition, spirit of collaboration and shared equity in the Joint Lightning Force.

When not at sea as part of the UK’s carrier strike force, the squadron will be based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

The joint nature of the squadrons means naval personnel will serve with the Dambusters, and their Air Force counterparts will do likewise on 809 Naval Air Squadron.

Published 9 September 2013