Tag Archives: RAF Marham

Observing The British F-35B Lightning At Work At RAF Marham

Spotting outside RAF Marham, home of the UK’s stealth aircraft, on an ordinary day.

On Tuesday Sept. 25 afternoon, The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Fucito went to RAF Marham, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia, UK, to take some photographs of the first British F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) stealth jets based there.

Whilst test pilots at the F-35 Integrated Test Force at NAS Patuxent River, Md. are involved in the first of two First of Class Flight Trials (Fixed Wing) phases, performing a variety of flight maneuvers and deck operations on board HMS Queen Elizabeth to develop the F-35B operating envelope for Britain’s newest aircraft carriers, the 617 Sqn at RAF Marham has eventually ramped up flying activity to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) from land bases. Indeed, there is still a lot to do, considered that the UK-based F-35Bs have flown less than expected during the summer: as reported by Aviation Week’s Tony Osborne recently, none of the UK-based aircraft has flown for 34 consecutive days, from Jul. 26 to Aug. 29 (not including the arrival of five F-35Bs belonging to the second batch which arrived from the U.S. on Aug. 3)!

Side view for the F-35B ZM147 performing pattern work at RAF Marham on Sept. 25. (All images: Alessandro Fucito).

According to Osborne, little flying preceded the “mysterious month-long flying break”, considered that just 21 or 22 flights were flown up to July 26 (mainly local training sorties as well as the first vertical landings), including sorties flown in support of air show display flyovers. “The UK defense ministry insists the break in flying is a result of extensive maintenance checks and personnel on leave. But when the first batch of aircraft arrived in June, crews said they were expecting an intensive flying regime to achieve IOC,” commented Osborne.

Conventional approach to RWY19.

That said, our contributor Fucito has counted two F-35 sorties (and three Tornado ones) even though the Lightning jet was the same, ZM147, flying both missions. During each flight, the pilot has practiced three approaches, both in conventional and STOVL configuration, to the runway in use (RWY 01/19, the one that is used for short takeoffs and vertical landings, the other one, the 06/24 was closed for works). For those interested, the aircraft sported the type’s three Luneburg lenses (radar reflectors).

F-35B ZM147 configured for a Vertical Landing.

Although the activity was far from being “intense” at least the two F-35 sorties provided an opportunity for some interesting shots that you can find in this post.

The F-35B flew two sorties on Sept. 25: each included three approaches, both conventional and in Vertical Landing configuration.

As a side note, although they have not been grounded after a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B has crashed in the US, someone has noticed that there was no Lightning activity at RAF Marham this week.

UK’s First Four F-35B Jets Currently On Their Way To The UK and Their New Home Of RAF Marham

The first F-35B aircraft are expected to land later today to join the RAF 617 Squadron “Dambusters”.

Earlier today four Lightning jets of 617 Squadron took of from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, where the famous “Dambusters” unit was reactivated on Apr. 17, 2018, to undertake the transatlantic crossing and arrive at RAF Marham, the new home of the UK’s Lightning Force.

The F-35Bs are being supported by three RAF Voyagers tankers: ZZ330 (RRR9101, radio callsign “Ascot 9101”), ZZ335 (RRR9102, “Ascot 9102”) and ZZ331 (RRR9103 “Ascot 9103”). ZZ330 departed Charleston and picked up the four  F-35Bs from MCAS Beaufort. That took the Lightning as far as ZZ331 and ZZ335 out from Gander that are towing the F-35 across the Atlantic. Supporting the transatlantic trip is also an A400M ZM401 (RRR4085).

The four jets are due to land at RAF Marham this evening, one day later than expected: their mission was delayed 24 hours by the bad weather along the planned route.

The Royal Air Force has also shared a video on social media showing one of the Lightnings during aerial refueling:

According to Air Forces Monthly, nine of the 11 UK F-35Bs currently on strength at MCAS Beaufort (where the British squadron operates under Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501) are expected to arrive in the UK for the RAF’s centenary celebrations this summer, including a flypast over London. And, above all, later this year, the UK F-35Bs will deploy aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.

“Lightning II has been designed from the outset to carry out a wide range of mission types, able to use its very low observable characteristics to penetrate Integrated Air Defence Systems and strike a number of types of targets. In a permissive environment, Lightning II is able to carry weapons on external pylons, as well as in the internal weapon bays. This will allow a maximum weapon payload of 6 Paveway IV, 2 AIM-120C AMRAAM, 2 AIM-132 ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) and a missionised 25mm gun pod,” says official RAF documentation.

“In 2019 we will also start our integration work for the new Meteor [beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, BVRAAM] and SPEAR Cap 3 [Selective Precision Effects At Range Capability 3] weapon in order to deliver a phase one capability for those assets in 2021,” Martin Peters, BAE Systems’ F-35 flight test manager and test lead for STOVL (short take-off and landing), told AFM.

Top image credit: Crown Copyright

Here are some interesting details about RAF Tornados first air strike on ISIS in Syria

RAF Tornados, supported by Voyager tanker and a Reaper UAV, have extended the UK’s airstrikes to Syria.

Hours after the UK parliament approved to extend the airstrikes to include Syria, Royal Air Force Tornado attack planes, deployed to Akrotiri, Cyprus, flew their first raid on terrorist targets inside Syria, early in the morning on Dec. 3.

The Tornados, supported by a Voyager tanker and a Reaper drone, dropped their Paveway IV guided bombs against six targets on an oilfield at Omar, “one of the ISIS’s largest and most important oilfields,” according to the MoD.

The six British “Tonkas” committed to Operation Shader flew their first mission against ISIS on Sept. 27, 2014 destroying the first ISIS target, a “technical” (an armed pick-up truck), in Iraq, on Sept. 30. Since then the RAF Tornado jets, have carried out hundreds of strike (and armed reconnaissance) missions against Daesh targets.

Although the payload may vary according to the type of mission the RAF Tornado GR4s have often carried a mixed load out with a single rack of three Brimstones and two Paveway IV 226kg bombs along with the Rafael Litening III targeting pod.

The Brimstone, is a fire-and-forget anti-armour missile, optimized for use against fast-moving platforms, first fielded during 2008 after an urgent operational requirement and used on the RAF Harriers during operations over Afghanistan.

With a warhead of 9 kg and a range of 7.5 miles, the Brimstones are an extensive redevelopment of the AGM-114 Hellfire and can be used on fast jets, helicopters and UAVs. They use a millimeter wave (mmW) radar seeker with a semi-active laser (SAL) that enables final guidance to the target by either the launching platform or another plane, and are perfect to destroy a vehicle with very low collateral damage risk, and an accuracy of about 1 – 2 meters. That’s why these small guided missiles have become the RAF weapons of choice since the Air War over Libya back in 2011.

Interestingly, one of the 8 RAF Tornados deployed at Akrotiri could be regularly tracked online during its transit from Cyprus to Iraq via Israel, Jordan, accompanied by a Voyager tanker: the example #ZA556 (the only “visible” aircraft in a formation of at least two planes) can be often spotted on Flightardar24.com as it flies into Israel, then into the Jordanian airspace before turning its transponder off to enter the Iraqi airspace.

Here are some of the latest logs:

With the air strikes now covering both Iraq and Syria, the UK has reinforced its contingent at Akrotiri with 10 Tornados and 6 (+3 spares) Eurofighter Typhoon, that have arrived in Cyprus on Dec. 3. The Typhoon FGR4 multirole planes (with their squadron markings stripped off..) belong to the Tranche 2: they can drop Paveway LGBs, but neither the Brimstones nor Storm Shadows yet.

RAF Marham depart Syria

Image credit: Crown Copyright

 

Cool video shows five RAF special painted Tornados flying together

Tonka Special Tails.

This video shows a historic event: a unique formation of four special colored Tornado GR4s from RAF Marham alongside a fifth machine from RAF Lossiemouth, flew in the skies over Great Britain, last week.

Four aircraft were adorned with a special centenary painted tail fin commemorating the 100th anniversary of each individual squadron with the fifth jet’s tail fin celebrating 40 years of the Tornado.

Established at St. Omer on Dec. 8, 1914 Number IX (B) Squadron has been the first unit to pass the 100-year mark. Being one of the pioneers of the night flying, hence their motto “Through the Night We Fly,” the unit’s special painted Tonka sported the famous green bat, which represented the night camo colour, on the tail fin.

The second Tornado was from Number 12 (B) Squadron that celebrated their centenary on Valentine’s Day this year. Made up at Netheravon on Feb. 14, 1915 the unit contributed in developing daylight bombing tactics (their motto “Lead the Field” reflects this expertise) and the fin of their jet was painted with the emblem of the fox, received from Fairey Fox aircraft that the squadron flew in 1926.

The third jet was from 31 Squadron, whose anniversary will be celebrated  on Oct. 11, 2015. Known as the Goldstars, their Tonka’s tail fin was painted with the Gold Star of India, in recognition of them being the first operational military unit in Indian skies supporting the army in dealing with tribal unrest, hence their motto “First in Indian Skies.”

The fourth Tornado from Marham was the one wearing the 40th Anniversary tail fin, commissioned in 2014 to mark 40 years of the European bomber.

The four Tonkas joined with a fifth special color from  XV Squadron, the Tornado operational conversion unit based at RAF Lossiemouth. XV Squadron was born in Farnborough on Mar. 1, 1915 and their tail fin features the Hind’s Head from their squadron emblem. The original emblem of a Hart’s head was changed to the Hind’s head in 1927 to represent the aircraft that was in service at that time.

RAF Tornados are actually taking part to Operation Shader against ISIS flying from Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus.

Image credit: RAF/Crown Copyright

 

A 360 angle “globe” image of a Tornado GR4 aircraft

Here’s a Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 as you have never seen it before.

This is a No II (AC) Sqn Tornado GR4 based at RAF Marham, through a fisheye lens for an interesting 360 angle ‘globe’ image.

No. 2 Squadron’s role is Army Co-Operation as reflected in the “AC” of its title.

Tornado GR4 from RAF Marham have been conducting reconnaissance missions out RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, supporting UK airdrops in Iraq.

Image credit: Crown Copyright/SAC Lee Matthews