According to an article on the UK Ministry of Defence website, the Ministry of Defence has announced contracts worth 167 million pounds to upgrade and build new facilities at RAF Marham, the future home of the UK F-35B Lightning II squadrons.
The contracts, which will create 300 new jobs, will allow for the addition of maintenance, training and logistics facilities to the station in East Anglia, all of which will be dedicated to the next-generation fighter aircraft.
The announcement was made in the same week as the UK met a new milestones on the F-35 programme with the completion of the 10th aft – or rear – section being built for the UK’s fleet.
Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon said:
The F-35 is the most advanced combat aircraft in the world. Whether operating from land or our two new aircraft carriers, they will ensure we have a formidable fighting force.
They are part of our plan for stronger and better defence, backed by a budget that will this week rise for the first time in six years, and keep rising until the end of the decade.
The works at RAF Marham have been made possible through three contracts, placed initially by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and totalling £25 million, for demolition and cabling works at the Norfolk site, readying RAF Marham for new construction works.
A £142 million contract between Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Lockheed Martin UK will then allow the construction of three new buildings which together will keep the new aircraft ready for service, provide training facilities for pilots and ground crew, and enable centralised management of the UK’s whole F-35B fleet.
Approximately 300 people will be employed on the construction works, which will be managed by sub-contractors BAE Systems. The buildings will become a place of work for around 250 military and civilian staff when they open in 2018.
DE&S Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas said:
These facilities are critical to the F-35B Lightning II programme, which is in turn vital to the future capability of the UK’s Armed Forces. The cutting edge technology of these aircraft, supported by world-class facilities at RAF Marham, will ensure we have a battle-winning fleet of jets deployable anywhere in the world.
The aft – or rear – sections of every single F-35 are being built by BAE Systems in Samlesbury, Lancashire. Demonstrating further progress on the UK programme, the company has now completed the first 10 aft sections designated to form the airframes of UK aircraft.
More widely, around 500 companies across the UK are involved in the F-35 Lightning II programme. More than 3,000 F-35s are planned for global delivery over the next two decades.
A story by Richard Tomkins provided further detail to this announcement.
“The construction work at RAF Marham signals the start of an exciting time for the BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin team as the UK prepares for the arrival of the first F-35 Lightning II jets,” said Cliff Robson, senior vice president of F-35 Lightning II at BAE Systems Military Air & Information business. “The contract also underlines BAE Systems’ continued involvement with the F-35 Lightning II program and our company’s credentials in providing infrastructure for the UK’s military aircraft operations.
“We have a proven pedigree in delivering maintenance and support to the Royal Air Force fast jet fleets at bases throughout the UK including RAF Marham, where we have been supporting the operation of the Tornado GR4 fleet for the last decade.”
Not far away, the USAF will base its F-35 squadrons in the UK.
It has been some time since the USAF flew the same aircraft as the RAF, although the RAF and the Marines have flown Harriers for a considerable period of time.
According to a January 8, 2015 press release by the USAF:
The F-35s will be delivered to two fighter squadrons in multiple phases beginning in 2020. Each of the squadrons will have 24 Joint Strike Fighters assigned; totaling 48 aircraft assigned to RAF Lakenheath once full mission capability is achieved.
“Lakenheath is the perfect base for the perfect weapon system in the perfect country,” said Col. Robert Novotny, 48th Fighter Wing commander. “From the beginning, the United States and the United Kingdom have been side-by-side on F-35 program development. This is about continuing to work together with our allies and partners to ensure a secure future for Europe.”
The U.S. is one of nine Joint Strike Fighter partner nations who have agreed to adopt the new platform. This makes European basing crucial to maintaining and improving combat readiness for Air Forces in Europe according to Gorenc.
In addition to basing F-35s at RAF Lakenheath, there are also plans to construct shared maintenance facilities for the aircraft in Italy and Turkey. The F-35 partnership is expected to bring the added benefits of increased allied interoperability and cost sharing.
“When pilots from different nations fly the same platform they talk the same language,” Gorenc said. “Interoperability with F-35 partner nations is assured for decades.”
As new threats evolve around the world, NATO continuously seeks new technologies that can deter and defeat those threats.
“Air superiority, freedom from attack and freedom to attack, has always been the primary mission of the U.S. Air Force,” said Gorenc. “With air superiority everything is possible, without it nothing is possible.”
The question remains with regard to how the RAF and the USAF will leverage the close proximity of their aircraft to shape the most efficient and effective logistics support system to support and sustain the F-35 air combat force?
With the substantial similarity between the two aircraft, significant joint support opportunities clearly exist.
The challenge will be to make them happen.
But the Commander of the USAF in Europe is looking forward to the opportunity.
I think that the F-35 is going to do for NATO what the F-16 did, in the sense that many of the partners and many of the allies were flying it, and so we’re going to share common tactics, techniques, procedures (TTPs), concepts of operations, we’re going to leverage the logistics systems, the training system.
I think that’s going go a long way to provide the interoperability that we strive for in the NATO concept.
Oh by the way, the USAF did not provide a lot of logistics support for the Harrier precisely because they did not fly the plane.
But the JOINT strike fighter will allow them the opportunity to support the Navy as well as the Marine Corps as can be seen with the F-35C being maintained at Edwards AFB.