Major boost for west Norfolk as £40m training hub at RAF Marham is funded

Sir Michael Fallon and US Defence Secretary James Mattis (left) during a joint press conference at L

Sir Michael Fallon and US Defence Secretary James Mattis (left) during a joint press conference at Lancaster House in London. - Credit: PA

RAF and navy servicemen and women will arrive at a new RAF Marham training, engineering and maintenance hub next year as part of a £40m investment announced today.

More than 100 technicians will be based at the Norfolk air base to train air and ground crews and maintain the new F-35 jets which will arrive in Norfolk from 2018. The multi-million pound contract was announced at a joint press conference between defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon and his US counterpart General Mattis in London today.

Lockheed Martin, which is running the US Department of Defense F-35 Lightning II Joint Program, has been awarded a contract worth £80m (US$102.2m) to train crews and provide engineering, maintenance and logistics support for the UK's F-35 Lightning II fleet over a three year period. BAE Systems has been given £40m to set up the new team in Norfolk. It is already constructing the £142m operations centre, integrated training centre and maintenance and finish building, which is due to be finished early next year.

General Mattis was making his first visit to the UK in his role as US Defense Secretary.

Sir Michael said: 'Nothing demonstrates the strength of our relationship better than our joint work on the most advanced combat aircraft in the world – the F-35 Lightning II. And the UK is proud to be the future hub for all the European jets. The additional investment at RAF Marham will ensure that we have a formidable fighting force that, at a time of growing danger, in the most momentous of weeks, will help us work with our US partners to promote international peace and security.'

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss MP said: 'BAE systems is well established at RAF Marham and the partnership with Lockheed Martin is great news for Norfolk and the UK as a whole. Every week when I drive past the base I see the progress of the multi million pound building programme. The boost this brings to the local economy is fantastic and the arrival of the F-35 Lightning II jets will provide even more job opportunities for south-west Norfolk residents.'

RAF 617 Squadron is due to arrive at the airbase near Downham Market next year to start flying the F-35 Lightning II jets. Andrea Thompson, F-35 Lightning II Senior Vice-President at BAE Systems, said they were working hard to prepare for the arrival of F-35 Lightning II and the contract was the next step towards that reality.

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BAE has been supporting the operation of the Tornado GR4 fleet for the last decade at RAF Marham.