Fears that one of the most famous squadron’s in the Royal Air Force would vanish forever have been dismissed today with news that the Dambusters would reform as the custodians of the new ‘Lighting II’ stealth bombers.
The Lossiemouth-based squadron will be disbanded in April next year as part of the decommissioning of the Tornado GR4 force, with operations at the base switching to Typhoons currently based at RAF Leuchars in Fife.
Some feared that it might be some considerable time before 617 (Dambusters) was seen again.
However, an announcement by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Steven Dalton, has ended speculation by revealing that the squadron will reform in 2016 in time to take delivery of the first Lighting II aircraft.
In a speech delivered to representatives from air forces around the world, ACM Dalton said: “I am delighted to announce that 617 Squadron’s outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s air power – past and present – will unequivocally continue when it reforms as the UK’s first operational F-35B Lightning II squadron.
“The Lightning’s state of the art stealth and precision target capabilities, together with the battle-proven Typhoon force, will complement each others capabilities and set the base-line for UK combat air power as a contemporary global force for the 2020s and beyond.
“Lightning shall be operated jointly by the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm pilots, from land or from the Queen Elizabeth Class carrier. Overall, a hugely flexible and futuristic joint capability.”
Lightning II will have vertical take of and landing capabilities and is a variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, giving is supersonic multi-role stealth ability over land and sea.
On its reformation, 617 Squadron will comprise of both RAF and Royal Navy personnel, while another squadron will be formed with the aircraft carrying a Naval squadron number and again jointly manned by both services.