The new Officer Commanding of 617 Squadron, Wing Commander John Butcher, has taken his first flight in an F-35B.

617 Sqn ‘Dambusters’ is designated as the first front line UK F-35B Lightning squadron and will return to RAF Marham next summer.

Speaking after his flight Wg Cdr Butcher said:

“This was a memorable day and climbing into the cockpit for the first time felt really familiar as the simulator I have been training in is so realistic. This flight certainly marks the beginning of the end for 617 Squadron’s time at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as we already look forward to our arrival back at RAF Marham in the summer of next year.

It was a real thrill to finally fly this aircraft and it certainly exceeded my expectations. The capabilities and potential of this aircraft are immense and this is a very exciting time to be a fast jet pilot.”

The first flight followed weeks of ground school training and during his flight Wg Cdr Butcher flew over the Atlantic Ocean where he was able to explore how manoeuvrable the aircraft is before conducting some approaches at Beaufort say the Ministry of Defence.

Both Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots, maintainers and ground crew are currently training on the F-35 in South Carolina ahead of the return of 617 Squadron to RAF Marham in Norfolk next summer. Both US Marine Corps and British aircraft are operated on a pooled basis to train pilots from both countries.

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Need lots more please.!!!

Daniele Mandelli

F35B should be FAA only.

F35A can go to RAF once F35B is purchased in sufficent numbers to allow surge on the QEC’s, not before.


Daniele – Why?


1 its cheaper to buy per plane,2 it has greater range,3 it has a higher payload.

Daniele Mandelli

Yes Paul, but not before more than 48 B are procured otherwise leaves the carriers short.

I just like to see the RN own it’s aviation assets like the aeronavale and USN do.


Agreed,the Carriers must be the priority with the allocation of F35B’s,in an ideal world they should be FAA only but the powers that be think joint RAF/FAA operations are the way to go.Ive said before that the Mod could hedge its bets and order the F35C instead of the ‘A’,that way if the Carriers were eventually fitted with Cat & Traps we would already have the correct aircraft in the fleet,but think we would all agree that that’s pretty much not going to happen.

andy reeves,

i hope ‘hank the yank’ will pull his finger out and build them faster


The performance and costs differences between the F35 A and B are not relevant here because we have just over £6Bn on potentially the most powerful carriers in the world behind those of the USA. Therefore with that investment made the planes now should all be F35B and FAA assets. This would allow the Government to order a smaller number than the 138 proposed to reflect budget pressures but still allow the carriers to have strong air groups. If in the event we need some of these aircraft to be land based then so be it but the carriers should… Read more »


Yes think your right regards the Carriers,as for the RAF maybe drones are the future but their not quite mature enough yet,the Tornado’s are due to retire soon,theres no reason why they couldn’t be replaced by more Typhoons in the meantime but for the price difference vs the F35’S of whatever version and the advantages of stealth etc I think the current plans are hard to argue with IMHO.

Alan Reid

Hi sjb1968, I’m a big fan of the QE class carriers, and the flexibility they should bring to UK combat operations. They are, however, just a means to an end – delivering air-power in the pursuit of UK interests. Since the Falklands War, carrier strike has not been an essential factor in the deployment of UK air-power; not in the two Gulf wars, nor in Afghanistan, nor the Balkans wars, nor the war against ISIS, not even the air-strikes over Libya in 2011. Through agile diplomacy, overseas bases, and military alliances, the UK been able to successfully conduct offensive air… Read more »


Alan, I hope you don’t mind me replying with a slightly different opinion. The RN had a carrier on rotation for several years in the Adriatic during the Balkans conflict because its reaction time was quicker than any land based aircraft and Libya would have been far more effectively covered by carrier aircraft than the farce of basing aircraft in Italy. Why was a cheap LPH with Apaches involved if air cover could be effectively provided by land based aircraft? Why didn’t you mention the withdrawal from Hong Kong or the protection of Sierra Leone was it too far from… Read more »