617 squadron, which was immortalised in the Dambusters film, has been reformed to fly the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) latest front-line aircraft, the F35 Lightning II.
Disbanded in 2014, 617 Squadron has primarily been a ground attack and reconnaissance squadron and became a household name when, in 1943, they carried out Operation Chastise led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson. The operation saw 617 squadron Lancaster attack German dams using what was known as the bouncing bomb.
In its most modern role, 617 Squadron operated GR4 Tornados and saw service in the Gulf Wars. It was disbanded during the draw-down of Tornado’s in the RAF in readiness for the F35.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the new 617 Squadron after an event in Washington DC to mark the RAF100 where he said: “The 617 Squadron name was made famous by ‘The Dambusters’, who played such a vital role in the Second World War. So it is fitting that by flying the world’s most advanced fighter jets, our new squadron will be ensuring that the legend of world-leading air power lives on.
“The F-35B Lightning will defend our nation and ensure that Britain remains a pioneer in innovation, with a unique ability to adapt to this increasingly dangerous world.”
The F35 is a multi-role fighter jet capable of a wide range of operations. It is the world’s first jet to combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds and short take-off and landing capability.
Lightning Force Commander Air Commodore David Bradshaw said: “This is a most momentous day for the UK Lightning Force as we celebrate the reformation of 617 Squadron. Manned by highly capable Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel and equipped with the truly remarkable F-35B Lightning, 617 Squadron will once again provide potent, flexible Air Power for the nation.
“In a simple yet highly significant ceremony held in the heart of Washington DC amongst friends and colleagues as part of celebrations for RAF100, the famous Dambusters marked the start of another exciting chapter in their Squadron’s proud history. I very much look forward to welcoming 617 Squadron home to RAF Marham this summer as they prepare for operational service from land and sea.”
The Squadron will be made up of both RAF and Royal Navy (RN) who will jointly operate the F35 Lighting II from RAF Marham and HMS Queen Elizabeth.