A NEW CHAPTER is being written in the rich history of an RAF Squadron that until recently was based in Moray before being temporarily disbanded.
617 Squadron flew Tornado GR4’s from RAF Lossiemouth including several deployments to Afghanistan, before departing from Moray in March last year in a ceremony attended by HRH The Duke of Kent.
Now the Squadron has re-emerged with a new CO – and with a very different role both on land and at sea. The Squadron will be based at RAF Marham under the command of Wing Commander John Butcher – and will continue its trail-blazing reputation by flying the new F-35B Lightning.
It will be made up from both RAF and Royal Navy pilots, deployed from Marham at times to the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. Currently under intense training on the aircraft at the US Marine Corp base at Beaufort, South Carolina, it will not be until 2018 that 617 Squadron are fully formed up back in the UK.
Wing Commander Butcher said: “We work alongside the US Marines flying the jets and training pilots and maintainers every day. We’ve been working with our US partners since the beginning of the F-35 programme and we continue to develop the capabilities of the aircraft together.
“We work very closely with the US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps and other international partners in making decisions on the programme; the relationships really couldn’t be better.
“Leading 617 Squadron as it starts this new chapter in its history is a huge privilege. If I could show [Guy] Gibson around the F-35B Lightning and introduce him to the team, I hope he would feel the same spirit and determination that he created in 1943.
“I also think he would be very happy to see the Squadron once again re-forming for a very special purpose, staying true to the heritage of being at the cutting edge of aviation – I think he would like that.”