No. 207 Squadron Royal Air Force, a former bomber, communications and then trainer squadron, is to stand up as the F-35 OCU squadron it has been announced.

An operational conversion unit (OCU) is a unit within whose role is to support preparation for the operational missions of a specific aircraft type by providing trained personnel. Operational conversion units teach pilots how to fly an aircraft and which tactics best exploit the performance of their aircraft and its weapons.

207 Squadron forms in 2019 at Marham. The first Officer Commanding will be Scott Williams.

Before the RAF was formed it was part of the Royal Naval Air Service as No. 7 Squadron.

The announcement was made during a visit to RAF Marham by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, to view the progress being made to prepare for the arrival of the fifth generation fighter at the Norfolk base next summer.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said:

“I am very pleased to announce that the Operational Conversion Unit for the UK’s F-35B Lightning fleet will be 207 Squadron. The squadron has a proud and distinguished history, not only as an RAF squadron but as one of the earliest squadrons of the Royal Naval Air Service which, with the Royal Flying Corps, came together to form the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918.

Preparations for the arrival of the first UK Lightnings next year are progressing well. The investment of £250m in infrastructure here at RAF Marham will ensure the station has the facilities to match this world-class aircraft when it arrives next year. As the home of the UK Lightning Force the station will be at the heart of UK airpower for decades to come.”

Admiral Sir Philip Jones First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff said:

“207 Squadron will play an important part in the future of both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, and rightly reflects our shared aviation heritage.  I was in the United States earlier this month to meet some of the pilots and maintainers who are getting to grips with the F-35B. They’re working brilliantly together and today I’ve seen the same sense of purpose from those readying RAF Marham for their arrival.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first carrier in the world designed from the outset to operate a fifth generation combat aircraft. Crucially, a second ship – HMS Prince of Wales – is on its way, which will give the UK a continuous Carrier Strike capability. I have every expectation that, in time, this combination of carriers and jets will represent a powerful and important strategic conventional deterrent.”

The new infrastructure currently being built at RAF Marham includes vertical landing pads, the renewal of runways and taxiways and new technical and training facilities, offices and hangars.

The first Lightnings will arrive at RAF Marham in summer next year when the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots currently training in the United States, will return as 617 Squadron, the Dambusters. The Lightning OCU will stand up as 207 Squadron on the 1st of July 2019.

In 2002 one of the Flying Training Squadrons operating Shorts Tucanos at No. 1 Flying Training School, RAF Linton-on-Ouse was renumbered as No. 207 (Reserve) Squadron. The squadron was later disbanded in January 2012 as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

It is expected that the UK will build a front-line fleet of four F-35 squadrons with each squadron having 12 jets. A fifth unit, an operational conversion unit, will also operate 12 aircraft.

The structure of the Lightning force is now somewhat clear.

  • 17(R) Squadron is currently based at Edwards Air Force Base in the US and fills role of F-35B Operational Evaluation Unit.
  • 617 Squadron will be based at RAF Marham and will be the first operational British F-35 unit in 2019.
  • 809 Naval Air Squadron will also be based at RAF Marham.
  • 2 more unnamed frontline Squadrons are to be established.
  • 207 Squadron as the Operation Conversion Unit

This information comes from Air Cmdr. Harvey Smyth, the commander of the U.K.’s Lightning Force, as told to reporters at a conference in London last year.

In 2015, the UK government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed a planned order of 138 F-35s, with 23 of them to be available for carrier duties by 2023. The UK will have an operational fleet of around 63 aircraft which is less than half of the total number of F-35’s that the UK has agreed to purchase

However, as reported by AviationWeek, Smyth pointed out that “the total number would cover attrition replacements and the so-called sustainment fleet, which is defined as additional aircraft required to sustain the fleet to its out-of-service date as well as to cover maintenance. Other UK combat aircraft also have large sustainment fleets.”

The F-35B’s maiden deployment is set for late 2017 and it’s bound for the Western Pacific. The jet will deploy aboard an amphibious flattop and the US Marine Corps are planning a more powerful escort force to support it, according to Admiral Scott Swift, head of Pacific Fleet, as reported by Marine Times.

The F-35B has already flown from American assault ships as part of a series of tests, which largely went well. Additionally, F-35 unit costs have been going down with each successive lot of aircraft and will continue to do so.

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. If this is going to be the actual force level 60 aircraft in total as active fleet, I am underwhelmed. Does not seem to be enough to provide a powerful airwing of upto 36 jets for a carrier and allow a sufficient for for other tasks/ missions for the RAF. I would like the MOD to commit to an active fleet of some 90-100 F35s as a minimum.
    Instead we get usual baloney”rising defence budget, backed by £178 billion equipment fund”, seems to be delivering an unimpressive actual military capability on all fronts.

    • Steve, the FAA aircraft you describe are actually RAF assets – all of them – this is an agreed UK Defence position (by the RN and the RAF together). The RN have the QE Class carriers as assets, the RAF the fast jets. You may also wish to know that 207 Squadron was first a Royal Naval Air Service unit – 7 Squadron RNAS.

      Read up before posting?

  2. Are you aware that the current government has committed to the full 138 aircraft buy? This was announced by George Osborne in the 2015 SDSR.

    • Perhaps it`s you who should read up before posting.The 2015 SDSR commits us to 138 aircraft over the LIFE of the programme,as that my be 30+ years I wouldn`t put my money on anything more than 4 operational squadrons an OCU and an OEU as described above.

  3. Back to back deployments. Hmmm so you joined the RAF to spend your life at sea…why didn’t you join the Royal Navy?
    With inevitably reduced purchase numbers these planes need to be where they were designed for, at sea on the QE and PoW.

    • You join the forces and are sent where you are sent.

      You do not get a choice Ali – it doesn’t work like that

  4. IMHO. The operational fleet should be 138 made up of 8 Sqdns of 16 and 10 for testing and OCU.

    We need to remember that these are replacing 2 fleets; the Tornadoes which have been wound down in preparation for the F35B and the Harrier force which is the replacement of a well known and acknowledged capability gap.

    I do not mind capability gaps as long as they are: a) temporary and b) eventually re-constituted.

    If these decisions are meant to be permanent then they need to be highlighted at the time.

    The UK has/had 80 Tornado’s operational as of JAn 2017 (Wikipedia) and had 130 operational craft in 2010 (BBC) out of a total 0f 385 built during its lifetime (global security)
    The UK purchased a total of 143 Harriers through the aircrafts lifespan and had 32 in 2010.

    Clearly 138 aircraft over the lifespan is not good enough and the UK needs to pair each F35b with multiple taranis UAV’s to deliver payloads and become a force multiplier or we just simply need double the volume.

    Given we have/need 130 Tornado’s for current duties and commitments and also have a capability re-introduction I believe 138 needs to be the active F35b force not the total buy which needs to be double.

    We should start discussing with our American allies immediately and see if we can get a low run cost for all given our long term commitment. $80m fixed price for 250 units over 25 years should be the target ($100m with all spares etc if need be). Then we at least know what commitment we have at $2.5bn p.a that we can allocate out of our £17.8bn p.a equipment budget seems like peanuts to me.

  5. Mr A
    I am fully aware of the asset position and the history of the squadron numbers.My OPINION and that’s all it is,is that the F35 B is being bought to fly from the carrier’s,therefore as shipboard aircraft the squadrons should carry naval badges and as heritage is featuring in the sqn no’s,hence 809 I believe some of the FAA’s battle honoured squadrons should be remembered as there will be so few of them.

  6. Most of the time there will only have one carrier deployed so i would of thought 60 F35’s would be sufficient… Plus we have to be realistic when it comes to what we can afford, lot’s of other military projects to be payed for also in the future ..

  7. Is it possible that these squadrons will be all or most of the F-35B’s and the rest might be F-35A’s? Also remember that we have 107 Tranche 2 and 3 Typhoons which by the early 2020’s will be very capable bombers, as well as 52 Tranche 1’s with a good bombing capability. They might be land based but could be very able support in many places around the world.

  8. All this represents a terrible waste of money by a country that is £1.5 trillion in debt and with internal services breaking down. Just who is being deterred by this expenditure? Just who does it impress? And do stop referring to ‘we’ need, and ‘our’ and ‘us’. None of these boys’ toys belong to any poster here. You won’t be allowed near them. It really is time to face reality and to re structure the military into a home defence force as with the Irish and other nations. If the USA wish to police the globe, then let them. Stop making this island a target!

    • This island is already a target,in case you hadn`t noticed and has been for century`s.The first duty of government is to defend it`s people,without this, we ( that is the citizens of the UK ) are just asking for trouble.

    • “And do stop referring to ‘we’ need, and ‘our’ and ‘us’. None of these boys’ toys belong to any poster here. You won’t be allowed near them”

      Go tell the millions of sports fans in the country to stop referring to their team with “we” and “us” see where that gets you. doughnut.

    • Has Lilly Allen given you the day off? Surely your time could be better spent protesting for transgender animal rights or some other crap. It really is time to face the reality that you talk utter bollocks.

  9. Then I suggest the government stop making us a target primarily by keeping its nose out of others business. Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Germany etc etc don’t spend all this money and yet regard their citizens defended. Time to start looking to home defence which can be afforded by a middle ranking European country and to stop swaggering around with delusions of post Imperial importance.

    • TH Germany currently has the largest armed forces of any European nation. They had the 3rd largest Defence budget after France and the UK (but only spent approx 1.2% of GDP – less than Norway at 1.6%). Iceland has long relied upon NATO for their Defence and Ireland is a neutral nation/non-aligned nation.

  10. Then I suggest the government stop making us a target primarily by keeping its nose out of others business. Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Germany etc etc don’t spend all this money and yet regard their citizens defended. Time to start looking to home defence which can be afforded by a middle ranking European country and to stop swaggering around with delusions of post Imperial importance.

    • All the countries you mention are NATO members who don`t pay their subs and are in effect defended by the US,UK and France.Proper defence is not post imperial swaggering,it`s common sense.

    • None of those nations have a permanent seat on the UN security council Lilly. We are not a middle ranking country, we are in fact the 5th largest economy in the world. We could in fact afford much more if not for whinging little children like you.

  11. Superb reply Steve. TH you are welcome to continue commenting on this site. We live in a democracy where freedom of speech is our right. Please however remember that our freedom is a guarded right, guarded against tyrany and all hostile forces in the world that plot to degrade and do away with that right. I would like you to read a bit more about history and defence before you post on the site however as you are frankly laughable in your analysis and obvious incomprehension of the subject matter. Sorry TH not trying to belittle you, I do want you to keep posting as it is healthy to have an alternative view point.

  12. I know little about defence and read with interest comments made by people who know what they are talking about. I do know we need a good defence and a strong defence to keep our way of life. TH you are just an anarchist with personal issues. They make me smile. I have read your comments on other sites. I think you just need to re-locate to a country like north Korea where you would realise how fortunate you are. Thank you.

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