Infrastructure works to prepare RAF Marham for the arrival of the F-35 combat aircraft next year are well underway at the Norfolk base.

The Ministry of Defence say that over £500m is being invested in new infrastructure under the banner of Project Anvil, named after a type of lightning.

When 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, arrive at RAF Marham next summer they will benefit from an extensive project which will includes the construction of the management, maintenance, training and operational facilities required for the new aircraft, and the refurbishment of 90% the airfield operating surfaces.

According to officials, Project Anvil spans across the Station with eight main development sites during which time RAF Marham has continued to deliver high tempo Tornado GR4 operations.

The first real evidence of the work starting was the demolition of 3 Hangar to make way for the new Maintenance and Finishing Facility (M&F) which will provide the engineering support to the aircraft along with a bespoke finishing paint facility. Nearby the National Operating Centre (NOC) will be the first building to be handed over in early 2018 and will be the HQ for the Lightning Force and the Lightning Delivery Team for airworthiness and logistic support.

Work on new hangar facilities is well underway.

According to a press release:

“On the South side of the airfield, the skyline is changing with the construction of the Integrated Training Centre (ITC). When completed the ITC will provide UK Lightning maintainer training and house the Lightning Full Mission Simulators.

There have been a number of enabling works and upgrades to the utilities and services with the most significant of these being the installation of a new transformer. Work has been taking place underground with over 10km of trenches dug to enable the new buildings to be connected to power, water supplies and communication networks.

Wates have the contract for construction work on the new 617 Squadron site. It includes new Squadron buildings and refurbishment of the existing Hardened Aircraft Shelters where the aircraft will be housed.”

In September 2016, work started on a new access gate from the A1122. The gate ensures minimum disruption on the local community from the construction traffic. It was the first project to be completed and the gate opened in May 2017 for the exclusive access of Anvil contractors working on the South side of the airfield; approximately 180 lorries are expected through the gate per day.

One of the latest contracts to be awarded was the building of the Operational Conversion Unit, where 207 Squadron will reside, refurbishment of 90% of the Station’s Aircraft Operating Surfaces and the provision of new Vertical Landing pads with associated new taxiways.

“This is one of Project Anvil’s biggest contracts in terms of value and working area and was awarded to Galliford Try Lagan Construction. These works started in the summer of 2017 and saw the closure of the runway for a three week period in September 2017 to allow intersection works to be completed. This challenging task necessitated 24/7 working to ensure that the runway was re-opened again in time for the return of the Tornado squadrons from an exercise in which they had been participating.

Project Anvil contracts are being managed by both Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). DE&S projects are being delivered by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems and supported by Balfour Beatty.”

The first of the DE&S contracts to be awarded was for the delivery of the M&F, NOC and ITC. The remaining enabling works, 617 Squadron, 207 Squadron Operational Conversion Unit and Aircraft Operating Surface contracts are being delivered through DIO with a number of different contracts being awarded say officials.

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Its good to see high investment and hopefully this really brings it up to spec… Thought Anvil was a £250m upgrade and not £500m?

Daniele Mandelli

Another issue why MoD is so strapped for cash.

How, by the love of God does it cost half a billion pounds to put down concrete and construct buildings?

It’s an airfield not GCHQ! I know the NoC and other stuff is high tech but come on.


Building and concrete may seem like they should be cheap, and largely they probably are cheap. The thing that’s expensive is labour. The average wage/cost of employing these people from unskilled to skilled it probably pretty high given the minimum wage requirements in the UK. It’s probably an issue China don’t suffer with. The USA also has less of an issue as the cost of living over there is much less.

All these things combined mean it’s always going to be more expensive to build this type of facility.

Daniele Mandelli

Yeah good point, labour…

Lee H

Evening all
Hopefully you are all getting the idea of where the money goes.
Special tarmac is expensive and 90% needs to be redone.
These are all classed assets in the corse of construction (AICC) and will therefore all be capital expenditure.
You would hope though for £500m they may base more than just a 12 a/c operational Sqn and an OCU?
Could this become a Pacman27 superbase?


I shudder to think what it would cost to turn into a super base Lee… blimey £500m seems steep. It does have 2 runways (used to be 3) and is reasonably close Thetford TA so I guess could be.

I really would like to see these bases with good housing, facilities and big enough to hold a division (30k personnel).

Sadly I dont think there’s enough room but I live in hope.

Daniele Mandelli

Pacman it’s not realistic for a country UK sized. The US bases like Bragg are gigantic, spread over vast areas. Our biggest garrisons SPTA Bulford Tidworth and Catterick up in Yorkshire are big, towns in their own right but nowhere near 30,000 personnel sized! The cost of labour as shown by this half billion expenditure for improvements one RAF Station, how much would one of your super bases cost!? RAF has formed “hubs” as Lee pointed out, RN only has 3 naval bases, in themselves super bases, and the army as I already mentioned is on the process of forming… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

RAF Marham has 3 or 4 HAS Complex so more F35 Squadrons will form there.

To my thinking Pacman’s super base concept has RAF and Army assets garrisoned.
I don’t think Marhams admin side of the station is any bigger than other main RAF stations.

Ian stevenson

Danielle, when I last visited RAF Marham, it had two HAS farms, at the control tower side of the airfield, although at it’s high point, it housed 4 sqns of aircraft, two sans were housed in standard hangars. Are you now advising us that additional HAS were built there in the last 5 years?

Daniele Mandelli

No, was of the belief there were 3 HAS sites with the 4th GR4 Squadron on the main ramp.

Happy to be corrected if so Ian.

Mr Bell

I just hope spending £500 million on this base in preparation for F35B is justified. Justified by the fact we are going to have many more than just 48 aircraft in active service. Say 96-135 aircraft, then we would be getting somewhere.


…and in the real world Marham will have to send F-35 engines (the F135) to Turkey (that renowned inventor, manufacturer and global jet engine specialist country) and fly their aircraft to Italy for major maintenance because apparently while we can design and build large parts of it and carry out very complex airframe life cycle tests in hugely expensive test rigs, we are apparently incapable of F-35 airframe maintenance. You really could not make this shit up. And this is what we get for being a Tier One Partner? Why is no one demanding to know why the UK didn’t… Read more »