The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) has agreed to a contractual agreement with Lockheed Martin to support operations at RAF Marham, with BAE Systems assigned as the on-site lead for industry.

In this role, BAE Systems say it will lead a 170+ strong industry team to execute the two-year agreement valued at ~$101m (~ £76m) to enhance maintenance, mission planning and training services for the UK’s F-35 Lightning fleet based in Norfolk.

“The contract extends on the existing sustainment service at RAF Marham and will provide aircraft upgrades, maintenance, synthetic and maintainer training on-base, along with the ability to customise specialist pilot equipment at one of the first Pilot Fit Facilities outside of the United States. The training and maintenance support at RAF Marham is crucial in ensuring the UK F-35 jets are ready and available, as they prepare for their first operational deployment aboard HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH this year as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group. Combining advanced destroyers, frigates, helicopters, submarines and fifth generation fighter jets, the Carrier Strike Group will be capable of conducting a range of important missions, from maritime security to disaster relief.”

Edward Sheldon, Head of UK F-35 Sustainment & RAF Marham Site Lead, BAE Systems Air, said:

“As part of Lightning Team UK, our priority is to ensure our support solution at RAF Marham remains world-class to enable the deployment of UK jets whenever and wherever they’re needed. The collaboration between Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and industry is critical in achieving this and through the next phase of support at RAF Marham, we’re able to strengthen our UK sovereign capabilities by enhancing the services we provide. Through this continued investment and by working together, we can ensure the F-35 Lightning is available for the UK’s carrier strike operations and is ready to support allied operations anywhere in the world.”

Mark Perreault, Sustainment Sr. Program Manager, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said:

“The industry team worked closely with the Lightning Delivery Team and the JPO to provide a contract which will support the Lightning Force operations and the increasing inventory of jets. The services and expertise being provided via the Lightning Air System National Availability Enterprise (LANCE) effort will be integral to the daily operations and readiness of the Lightning squadrons of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.”

Air Commodore Phil Brooker, Lightning Delivery Team Head, DE&S, said:

“This contract will ensure the continued support of the UK F-35 Lightning fleet, as the number of UK aircraft continues to grow and we look forward to the first operational deployment of the aircraft onboard HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH this year. As well as providing world-class maintenance and training capabilities, alongside deployable global support, this contract also introduces new capabilities such as a Pilot Fit Facility to equip our aircrew and a new ejection seat maintenance bay. These new capabilities offer value for money for the UK taxpayer and increase the UK’s sovereign ability to operate the F-35 Lightning at a time and place of its choosing.”

BAE Systems add that the UK F-35 jets are maintained by a unique collaboration between Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce as part of Lightning Team UK.

“Together, the team works jointly with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to achieve a ‘whole force’ approach in support of the UK’s F-35 fleet. In November, RAF Marham welcomed the latest three F-35 jets, taking the UK Lightning Force up to 21.”

Around the world, there are now more than 610 F-35 aircraft operating from 26 bases and collectively, the programme has achieved more than 355,000 flying hours.

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After all the chat about, ‘do we need the carriers’ and ‘Why scrap the Harrier’ the F35 supporters in Government have proved that to a large extent, they were right to pursue this programme against all odds, well done.

Christopher Allen

No idea how anyone can suggest that we choose to stick with the Harrier over the F-35. I just hope the government have the sense to buy the ‘A’ variant for the RAF.

Last edited 1 day ago by Christopher Allen

When the Tory Government of the day made the decision to ground all Harriers and decommission Ark Royal, the outcry was deafening. The planned carriers and F35 were seen to be so far away from service that a huge hole in our capabilities was obvious. When all was said and done, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Harrier fleet, nor the Ark, and many thought the MOD had lost its marbles! Me being one of um!

Christopher Allen

I’m not talking about the gap between the Harrier and the F-35. I have heard some complaining that we should have stuck with and “modernised” the Harrier over the buying the F-35.

The Harrier was becoming increasingly outdated, even more so then the Tornado. I certainly wouldn’t try flying it over Syria with AA defences.

Steve R

The only real use for Harrier these days is as a CAS platform, which can be done by Protector or Reaper

Daniele Mandelli

Just a gentle reminder that the Harrier fleet by then consisted of a single squadron and an OCU. Previous gov had actually already got rid of 3 and 4 Sqns, announced Cottesemore would close, and earlier cut 800, 801, and 899 NAS.

Mud sticks and Cameron will always be linked with it, but most of the chopping was done by B Ainsworth.

With but a single squadron it was probably an easy decision.


Yes, you are correct Daniele, the Harrier had taken a heavy blow before the final axe, but what survived, was still a considerable force even though they possibly weren’t as good as the Sea Harrier? I knew an Ark officer at the time who was very unhappy with the decision to finish with engines, it all felt a bit uncoordinated and irrational at the time?

Paul C

From my understanding there were only a few GR9s actually operational (maybe 14/15), mainly deployed in Afghanistan. The 2 remaining Invincibles were employed as helicopter carriers and we could not have put together a carrier air group even if we had wanted to. Going forward, the only remaining role for the GR9 was a handful of aircraft (6-8?) to support the transition to F35B. Given that the government planned to switch to the F35C (later reversed), this role disappeared. So the GR9 was the obvious candidate for the axe in the quest to reduce the number of fast jet types… Read more »


Yep spot on! The Harrier fleet was progressively downsized from the early 00’s with 1-2 squadrons (if you count the Naval Strike Wing), 40/75 air-frames active (with the rest in storage) and if memory serves correctly barely 18 actually in the front-line fleet ready for operations.

They’d been worked very hard in Afghanistan and were struggling to keep even residual carrier certification going. Get to 2010 and with only completely removing an aircraft type and all of it’s associated training/support providing the sort of savings being demanded it was sadly an easy choice.


The navalised fighter variant of the Harrier was scrapped by Gordon Brown. So the then coalition had an open door when it’s choice was Tornado or Harrier… and Ark Royal. So we all need to get our history straight.


When the Tory Government of the day made the decision to ground all Harriers and decommission Ark Royal, the outcry was deafening. “

The outcry was pretty deafening when we decimalized the currency, when Churchill switched the fleet to oil fuel, and when the War Office decided to send nurses to the Crimea.

Put a couple of old fogies together and the outcry is always deafening.
This web site would be a lot more informational if the old fogies would take a year off.

Putin’s little trolls, too. They deserve a break.


Why would you want to do that! By splitting an already small buy (currently realistically expected to be no more then 75ish), you would create two smaller forces with even less aircraft availablity, at greater running costs. Apart from slightly more range and payload, there is currently nothing in the RAF inventory that the A can carry that the B can’t! The B is far more versatile WRT operating environment s, and can conduct all missions the A can. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the A version, as it can’t operate from a carrier or small unprepared austere… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I’m with Deep.

Buy A’s only when enough B are procured to make the QEC investment able to surge.

That means in the area of 70 to 90 aircraft.

Til then, all Bs please. I’d be satisfied with 70, all B. Anything else is a serious Brucie bonus!

Christopher Allen

Because the B variant only makes sense for the carrier for the obvious reason it is STOVL, which sacrifices range and payload to make possible.

Assuming we do purchase the planned number, the A variant would make more sense for the RAF, especially as a direct replacement for the Tornado. Certainly better than converting Typhoons to a role they weren’t designed for.


I agree with both your points actually. The problem is down to numbers, with the MOD replacing two different aircraft types ( 58ish Harriers/ 64 ish Tornados)with one type and not doing it concurrently. That and the new carriers are bigger than the Invincible class thus having a bigger air wing requirement. Ideally we should have purchased some 150 from the outset split 90/60 between B and A to cover the requirements of both services. Unfortunately that’s not what we are getting, hence the need to prioritise B’s and Carrier strike before anything else with such small numbers being ordered… Read more »


How dare you accuse me of hyperbole….indeed, the mere thought of it.


Yes, wasn’t actually aware that I had…….


No, the reply was to JonL…..sorry.


No worries, just wondered what I’d actually done/said…lol.

Steve R

It only makes sense to buy the A version once we already have enough to field at least 3 or 4 frontline squadrons of B; enough to fill the carrier if need be.

If we were to buy all 138 and accelerate the buy rate to have all in service together, this would allow for 6 or 7 squadrons, so could allow for 4 squadrons of B and 3 for A.

Not that this will realistically happen, of course, but one can dream…

But B version must be the priority over A so we can use them from the carriers.

Paul C

Agreed. Given the number of aircraft we will realistically end up with (probably 70-80) it makes not one ounce of sense to pursue the A variant. If we were actually buying 138, then yes it does. Stick with the B variant so that the carriers can be used as intended as opposed to being neutered.

Steve R

I’m hopeful for maybe 90; 4 squadrons totalling 48 combat planes, an OCU of 8-12 planes and then 30 spare airframes.


Steve, I’m interested in understanding how the RAF determines the required number of aircraft to allocate per squadrons( i.e.operational +spare+attrition etc). Do they base this on past experience balanced with the operational life span expectancy of the type? Looking at the F35 procurenet number of 138 units, how do they they arrive at that particular number. Any thought on this?


Why does it take such high ranking employees to project manage relatively small projects? A couple of dozen aircraft hardly necessitates a highly paid Air Commodore does it? I would have thought a thorough review of these highly paid officers is long overdue.All one ever reads of is Generals, Admirals, Air Marshalls and Commodores and their blingy uniforms alone must cost a wee fortune.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The suffocating bureaucracy of all public sector organisations is a gigantic problem

Meirion X

Troll H will just use your argument for anti militaristic propaganda.

He will Die without being fed an argument.

Steve R

He’s not right.

The fact is we need a certain number of top brass. When we are cooperating and working with other countries e.g. the US we need to have officers of equivalent rank to theirs. No good us sending a Squadron Leader or Group Captain (RAF) to represent us in a room full of USAF Generals. Certain responsibilities, especially with international collaboration, require us to have staff on an equal rank.


Correct mate.

Meirion X

Please ignore Troll H, don’t feed him.
He is just a degenerative!


I will try…….I promise!


You won’t be able to resist the urge though, will you? How’s the somnipathy?


You contact to me even when I am not communicating with you….I am most certainly in your head! But, alas you need to find your own friends.




I’m interested in understanding how the RAF determines the required number of aircraft to allocate per squadron ( i.e.operational +spare+attrition etc). Do they base this on past experience balanced with the operational life span expectancy of the type? Looking at the F35 procurenet number of 138 units, how do they they arrive at that particular number. Any thoughts on this folks?