RAF 617 Squadron F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (Crown Copyright, 2016)

RAF Dambusters Squadron Reforms for F-35B

617 Squadron to Fly F-35B Lightning

617 Squadron, the RAF’s legendary dambusters of World War II, has been reformed to fly the UK’s latest fighter jet, the F-35B Lightning. Minister of Defence Gavin Williamson made the announcement in Washington DC after an event to mark the centenary of the RAF, which was attended by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier.

75th Anniversary of 617 Squadron

The naming of the new 617 Squadron follows the 75th anniversary of the original formation of the squadron, commonly referred to as the ‘Dambusters’. Originally set up for the highly-specialised mission to knock out dams and disrupt industrial production in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, the new 617 Squadron will be the first to fly the UK’s brand new, state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets – the most advanced and dynamic fighter aircraft in the RAF’s 100-year history.

At the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, Officer Commanding 617 Sqn, Wing Commander John Butcher, ceremonially requested permission to reform the Squadron.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The 617 Squadron name was made famous by ‘The Dambusters’, who played such a vital role in the Second World War. So it is fitting that by flying the world’s most advanced fighter jets, our new squadron will be ensuring that the legend of world-leading air power lives on.

 The F-35B Lightning will defend our nation and ensure that Britain remains a pioneer in innovation, with a unique ability to adapt to this increasingly dangerous world.

The UK is currently flying the F-35B Lightning, a multi-role fighter jet capable of a wide range of operations. It is the world’s first jet to combine radar evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and short take-off and landing capability.

Lightning Force Commander Air Commodore David Bradshaw said:

This is a most momentous day for the UK Lightning Force as we celebrate the reformation of 617 Squadron. Manned by highly capable Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel and equipped with the truly remarkable F-35B Lightning, 617 Squadron will once again provide potent, flexible Air Power for the nation.

In a simple yet highly significant ceremony held in the heart of Washington DC amongst friends and colleagues as part of celebrations for RAF100, the famous Dambusters marked the start of another exciting chapter in their Squadron’s proud history. I very much look forward to welcoming 617 Squadron home to RAF Marham this summer as they prepare for operational service from land and sea.

The Dambusters

Wing Commander Guy Gibson hand-picked his bomber crews for the original 617-squadron, who then went on to deploy the iconic ‘bouncing bomb’ which had to be dropped above the water at an exact height of 60 feet and a speed of 220mph. The crews successfully managed to breach the Mohne and Eder dams.

Today’s 617 Squadron

Today’s 617 Squadron, currently training with the UK’s 15 F-35B Lightning jets in the USA, will move to the UK with a number of aircraft to their new home at RAF Marham this Summer. Like their predecessors they will be operating at the forefront of aircraft technology.

The aircraft will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and have the ability to operate from land and sea, forming an integral part of Carrier Strike operating from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.


Source: Ministry of Defence

Image: Pictured is the first of the UK’s F-35B Lightning II jets to be flown to the UK. Accompanied by two United States Marine Corps F-35B aircraft from their training base at Beaufort, South Carolina. The F-35B Lightning II will place the UK at the forefront of fighter technology, giving the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy a true multi-role all weather, day and night capability, able to operate from well-established land bases, deployed locations or the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be known in UK service as the Lightning II. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor but the UK is the only Level 1 partner with the US. A number of British companies, including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce will have significant industrial work-share in construction and development of the aircraft. The Lightning II will provide UK Defence with a 5th Generation (low observable, supersonic, enhanced data fusion), multi-role, all weather, day and night aircraft that will have the ability to operate from land bases as well as the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the first of which is due to accept Lightning II onto her deck in 2018. This basing flexibility will give UK Defence a truly joint expeditionary Combat Air capability well into the 2030’s. The RAF is the lead service for the operation of Lightning II and, like the Harrier before, the Joint Lightning II Force will be manned by both RAF and RN personnel. (Crown Copyright, 2016)