First F-35 squadron named
The First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Air Staff have agreed that the first operational JSF Squadron, which will form in 2016, will be named 617 Squadron (617 Squadron was the “The Dambusters” squadron, retaining in operational service the iconic squadron title which honours the heroism displayed on that epic raid in 1943). The next Lightning II Squadron will be named as a Naval Air Squadron.
This agreement, which demonstrates their shared equity in the Joint Lightning Force, will ensure that the best of both Service’s practices, culture, ethos and Joint Force Harrier experience are honed to maximise future UK Carrier Strike effect, just as the Ferguson study challenged the Department to do. 1SL and CAS are determined that this structure will succeed and this announcement serves deliberately to underline a spirit of collaboration between the RN and RAF in taking this capability forward together.
The Government gave strategic direction in the SDSR 10 on the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers and, together with the recent policy statement by the Secretary of State for Defence on Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP), this high level direction has ensured that our Carrier Strike milestones are being reached while offering further clarity on those that remain. The structure of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH is due to be completed by the end of the year in Rosyth and the plan is on track to float up the Ship in Summer 2014. In parallel, the new Lightning II jets are in the process of being procured, with test and evaluation flying now under way with RN/RAF pilots, maintainers and support staff in the US. Taken as a whole, these steps represent significant progress on the way to delivering the totality of the CEPP capability into Service, with the RN working hand in glove with our key stakeholders in the RAF, the MoD, DE&S and Industry.
An announcement by 1SL is expected later in the Summer on the Squadron Number selected to be the first Lightning II Naval Air Squadron, which is extremely good news and sets us firmly on the road to the return of fixed wing Carrier Strike capability and operations.