Aircraft from V Marine Fighter Attack (VMFA) – 211 Squadron arrived at RAF Marham to start their UK detachment. The ten F-35B jets flew from their base in Yuma, Arizona via MCAS Beaufort to visit the UK for the first time.

The US Marine Corps Squadron will be working alongside 617 Squadron ahead of a Group Exercise in September where they will embark on Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior. VMFA-211 Squadron will conduct synthetic training in the purpose built simulators at RAF Marham to familiarise themselves with the local airspace and procedures before they take to the Norfolk skies to fly training sorties alongside 617 Squadron in preparation for their embarkation with the carrier later this month. They will also be participating in Exercise Point Blank with their colleagues from local base RAF Lakenheath along with other NATO partners.

Throughout this preparation period personnel from both 211 and 617 Squadron will be in quarantine and will undergo Covid-19 testing to ensure they are Covid-19 free before they join the ship.

Once onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth both Squadrons will conduct carrier qualification training to ensure all pilots are proficient to operate from the carrier during both day and night. Training will also include live and inert weapons training ahead of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) next year which will see the carrier deploy operationally for the first time.

With the training complete the aircraft will then conduct Exercise Joint Warrior from HMS Queen Elizabeth which will bring together multiple units to train collaboratively in preparation for CSG21.

On completion of Exercise Joint Warrior both 211 and 617 Squadrons will return to RAF Marham where they will then prepare to take part in a further exercise, Crimson Warrior which will allow the F-35’s to conduct high end training, alongside other platforms, in a contested and degraded environment with this years focus being on Multi Domain Operations.

RAF Marham Station Commander, Group Captain Beck said “Its fantastic to welcome VMA-211 Squadron to RAF Marham for the first time and we are looking forward to working with them over the coming weeks to prepare for their deployment to HMS Queen Elizabeth. We are planning to undertake a qualification period and then participation in two Exercises. These exercises will really put our personnel to the test to ensure that they are ready to deploy on Carrier Strike Group 21 next year and will be the opportunity to showcase the capabilities of the F-35 and its interoperability working alongside our NATO partners. Preparation for the arrival of 211 Squadron hasn’t been without its challenges in the current climate, but I am extremely proud of the way that our personnel have worked to ensure that all procedures have been put in place to make this detachment a success”.

Image: Crown Copyright 2020