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Published: 04 Jun 2020

The head of the Royal Navy has visited the Lightning Force for the first time since the appointment of a new Senior Service commanding officer to an F-35B squadron.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin’s visit to RAF Marham came after Commander Mark Sparrow became the first Royal Navy officer to command the historic 617 Squadron, the first of two F-35B squadrons.

Adm Radakin was joined by Chief of the Air Staff, Mike Wigston, as he toured the Norfolk base and met the RN and RAF personnel who make up the Lightning Force.

The two service chiefs visited the Integrated Training Centre to see where pilots are trained to fly the Lightning using the Full Mission Simulators and engineers are trained on the maintenance of the aircraft.

After this they moved to 207 Squadron to see where the training continues with the pilots flying the jet for the first time. They were also briefed on how 207 have been supporting 617 Squadron in the build up to their deployment to the carrier.

Adm Radakin said: “It was a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to join CAS for the day at RAF Marham.  Lightning is a truly game-changing fifth-generation aircraft that will transform our abilities in the air. 

“But what is even more important is the way that the Royal Navy and RAF have been working together, alongside industry and our international partners, to deliver this.  It is an enormous honour that the RAF have given command of 617 Squadron to a Royal Navy aviator, and really underpins the extent to which we are completely integrated on this joint endeavour.  This is one Lightning force, delivering on behalf of Defence and the UK. “

Cdr Sparrow, who took over the Dambusters from Wing Commander John Butcher, said: “I am delighted to be commanding 617 Squadron and extremely proud to be the first Royal Navy officer to be selected to the position in its illustrious history.

“The next two years will see the potent combination of Lightning and the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers become jointly operational. I look forward to us playing a key part in the generation of both the Lightning Force and Carrier Strike Group’s capabilities.”


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