The iconic 809 Naval Air Squadron, known as the Phoenix Squadron, has been recommissioned as the UK’s second front-line F-35 squadron.

This historic event occurred nearly 41 years after the squadron was disbanded at RNAS Yeovilton.

The recommissioning ceremony, marked by an emotional handover of the unit crest and an F-35 flypast, took place at RAF Marham, attended by friends, family, and VIPs.

Commander Nick Smith, in charge of the squadron’s revival, received the crest from Commander Tim Gedge, the last naval officer to command 809. Commander Smith expressed his honour and privilege in leading the squadron, highlighting its rich history of integration between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. He stated, “The Squadron has a rich history of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force integration… this joint service approach will deliver a world-leading fifth-generation combat air capability, deployable from both land and sea.”

809 Naval Air Squadron, operating the advanced F-35B Lightning, joins the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron as a front-line stealth fighter formation. This new iteration of the squadron continues the legacy of its predecessors, including its involvement in the Falklands Conflict and previous operations using the Blackburn Buccaneer.

The F-35 Lightning, representing a significant generational leap from the Sea Harrier flown in the Falklands, is adaptable for operations both on land and from Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Notably, 809, like 617 Squadron, comprises personnel from both the RAF and Royal Navy, with leadership alternating between the services.

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Martin Connell and Air Marshal Harv Smyth, Air and Space Commander, were the guests of honour at the event. Admiral Connell remarked on the proud heritage of the 809 Naval Air Squadron and its role in enhancing the nation’s F-35 combat air force. Air Marshal Smyth added, “When the RAF and RN operate together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts… equipped with Lightning, it makes for an unbeatable combination.”

809 Squadron’s selection as an F-35 Lightning formation was due to its distinguished history, with battle honours from operations across various regions. The recommissioning expands the UK’s Lightning Force, now comprising four squadrons, including two front-line units, the Operational Conversion Unit (207 Sqn), and the Test and Evaluation Sqn (17).

Avatar photo
George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also previously worked for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

36 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
AlexS
AlexS
16 days ago

Will it have…. aircraft?

Jonathan
Jonathan
16 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Yes but for 2025.

AlexS
AlexS
16 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Thanks

PaulW
PaulW
16 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Fitted for, but not with. 🤣

Jonathan
Jonathan
16 days ago

Very good to see, fingers crossed we will see the next carrier group deployment with 2 RN\RAF squadrons and a friend from another nation..I think the RN needs to actually undertake a deployment with three squadrons on board to show the capability ( deterrent ) and actually practice using an Elizabeth with a full air wing. This is great news, but in reality the UK needs to move to an ambition of 4 F35b front line squadrons..so it can evidence that it can put 3 squadrons up as well as maintain other F35 commitments…the carriers can be a profoundly effective… Read more »

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
16 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Great Comment. What I’d like to know is how many Aircraft we assign as a Squadrons Established number ? I know the original idea was 12 to 16 but the USMC has now adapted 10 as their Standard number. But bottom line is we really do need to order more PDQ, but we also need to accelerate the process to adapt the carriers for light Cat Traps for UAV. IMHO something like a mix of 16/ 20 F35B, plus 4/6 Sea Guardians, 4/6 MQ-25 Stingrays and 8 AW101 ASW would be a pretty flexible Air group. The key is using… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
16 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Hi Rodney, from what I have read the RN/RAF are still planning 12 jet squadrons, which is good news, as you say the USMC are going to 10..but I’m wondering if that is about space on the amphibious ships as much as anything..the USN are moving to a 15 tail squadron for the F35C up from 12 but they are reducing the squadron numbers for a strike wing from 2 to 1.so that means a future USN strike wing will have 1 squadron of 35C ( 15 tails) and 2 squadrons of F18 ( 12 tails each)..for a total of… Read more »

Crabfat
Crabfat
16 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Orange wired?

LongTime
LongTime
16 days ago
Reply to  Crabfat

The 3 test jets are referred to as orange wired, for the additional test/evaluation kit onboard.

Jonathan
Jonathan
16 days ago
Reply to  Crabfat

Hi crab, traditionally ( since 1949 anyway) test aircraft with test instruments are wired with a lovely orange wiring…so any orange wired aircraft is basically wired with instruments for test flight and evaluation..not as a production front line aircraft…so the three aircraft the RAF have in the states as part of the test and evaluation centre at Edwards airforce base are orange wired and not deployable.

Coll
Coll
16 days ago

I know I’m going to get rebuttals. But I find Phoenix is rather too obvious and generic. I mean, at the moment we have a Phoenix squadron and a prototype aircraft for Aeralis called ‘Phoenix’. The tail art is still nice. Arawn. Morrigan: A Celtic goddess of war who hovered over the battlefield as a crow or raven. I think that can be used for a UAV. Cocidius: The goddess of Hunting. Brigantia: The goddess of war, healing and water.  Boudicca: The British warrior queen prayed to Andrasta before going into battle. And Cerne Abbas because it would be funny to have… Read more »

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
16 days ago
Reply to  Coll

From the article, 809 has always been Phoenix, this isn’t a PR stunt it’s just the name of the squadron that has occurred naturally, like 617 are the dambusters.
It would be worse to change the name than to keep it

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
16 days ago
Reply to  SailorBoy

Wouldn’t mind a Morrigan loitering munition though

Coll
Coll
16 days ago
Reply to  SailorBoy

Yeah, Morrigan would make a good name for a loitering munition, as well.

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
16 days ago
Reply to  Coll

Something like a winged quadcopter? Identifies target while hovering then zooms in for the kill

Coll
Coll
16 days ago
Reply to  SailorBoy

Oh, I thought it was the MOD trying to be clever because it’s a squadron being recommissioned.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
16 days ago
Reply to  Coll

Cernunnos, the hunter.

Frank
Frank
16 days ago

Maybe Wyvern ?

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
16 days ago
Reply to  Frank

A Wyvern drone, maybe a larger HALE, would be nice

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
16 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Ahhh yes, the Dragon like predator. Great name.

Cripes
Cripes
16 days ago

The hope that we will have 4 frontline squadrons and see 3 squadrons on the Carrier is a flight of fancy. If the order for an additional 26 goes ahead and we get 74 in total, that will be enough to equip 3 frontline squadrons each of 12 aircraft. (The remaining 38 will be spread between squadron reserve war reserve, attrition reserve, OEU, OCU and Wingco). If we want to get 4 squadrons out of that total, they would reduce to 9 frontline aircraft each. That is too puny for the RAF’s interdiction/SEAD role or for its close air support… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Cripes
Robert Blay
Robert Blay
16 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

The F35 force is a true joint force. The sqns don’t perform different roles. They perform all roles the aircraft is capable of delivering. Which is,the full spectrum of warfare. From air dominace to ISTAR to deep strike and close air support and everything in between.

Jonathan
Jonathan
16 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

74 aircraft could actually lead to 4 deployed squadrons… 48 jets 3 operations evaluation 6-8 for OCU for a total of 59 20% will be off in bits for around 10 airframes being pulled apart leaving Around 5 attritional reserve.. remember this jet is going to have open production lines for decades…so any attrition during service life can be replaced.. having 20 odd fifth generation jets sitting around in some form of attritional reserve is not really acceptable… The only way to justify 3 squadrons with 74 airframes is if they up the number of jets in each squadron to… Read more »

Louis
Louis
16 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

There is no chance you’ll get 4 squadrons unless tranche 2 is increased or squadron sized decreased. 48 operational + 8 OCU + at least 12 in use reserves but preferably more leaves 6 in the maintenance pool. Nowhere near enough. To add to that, the three orange wire, and BK3 will disappear when TR4 comes around leaving 70 in the fleet. An increase to 90 aircraft would scrape 4 frontline squadrons. The MOD have realised 74 won’t get them 4 squadrons which is why the scope has been reduced from 4×12 to 3×12-16 which really means 3×12. F35B will… Read more »

Asker of questions
Asker of questions
14 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Could you not have the RAF squadrons with 9 aircraft and the Faa squadrons with 10? Or the other way round that would make 42 operational aircraft.

Cripes
Cripes
16 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Gosh Jonathan, you really must write to the Air Staffs and Lord Trenchard’s great grandchildren to let them know that they’ve been getting their squadron structure wrong all these years! Except that they haven’t, the RAF format has been copied worldwide, because it is a proven model that works. There are no aircraft ‘sitting around’, those in frontline and reserve are rotated regularly to even out the flying hours. In this way, the fleet’s life is maximised. I think you have missed that a frontline squadron of 12 actually has 15 aircraft on its strength. They are technically complex aircraft… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Cripes
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
16 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

WWII maths sometimes needs a rethink.

Frames are now £80m+ so a lot more than a Spitfire……

Base and ground crew costs are orders of magnitude higher.

Squeezing a few more drops out of an orange is therefore important.

That said the 101 management consultancy level maths used by MID to cost work streams isn’t up to much either.

Klonkie
Klonkie
15 days ago

thats an excellent point SB, overlooked by most

Jonathan
Jonathan
16 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

Cripes, things change and change is not a dirty word…just because “we alway have” his a very bad reason to do something in the same way …once we would produce huge numbers of airframes and had them sitting around…that’s is just not something that can be done with fifth generation aircraft, that are just to costly and a rare resource. maybe a look at the USMC and how they do it would maybe help the use our nations assets more effectively. The US marines have 10 airframes in a squadron, that is it no more no less. Those squadrons are… Read more »

Asker of questions
Asker of questions
15 days ago
Reply to  Cripes

How would loyal wingmen work with squadron mass? Would they be part of the squadron or attached from a different squadron? And what would each of those do to numbers on a carrier and off it? What do you think.

David Barry
David Barry
16 days ago

Gedge would have needed his spare sock at the event – what’s the chance that such a brilliant leader wanted to take one up?

Andrew D
Andrew D
16 days ago

Just in time for Xmas 🎅 let’s hope all goes well for 809sqn . And Santa brings us more SQNs for the future 🙏 🇬🇧

DH
DH
13 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Yep Andrew D, the Imortals fly again. Chuffed to bits. 🛫😁👍.

James Hogan
James Hogan
14 minutes ago
Reply to  DH

Can we have the Omega Sqn rom the old Ark Royal…

DH
DH
31 seconds ago
Reply to  James Hogan

That would be cool,James

Asker of questions
Asker of questions
11 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

And the planes for them to operate.