Photo & video essay: The aircraft carrier’s main armament, first F-35s arrive in the UK

After sensibly postponing the trip for 24 hours due to bad weather, yesterday the first four UK-owned F-35Bs touched down at RAF Marham after a trans-Atlantic flight from the United States. Despite the postponement, the jets have arrived two months ahead of the original schedule and those involved in the programme deserve to be congratulated. These aircraft of 617 Squadron will form part of the initial main armament for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and will be the cornerstone of the UK carrier strike capability. The MoD has provided some outstanding imagery and video which tells the story of their arrival.

F-35 Taxiing

The aircraft taxing ready for take off at USMC Beaufort, South Carolina, where Britain has more of the jets and 150 personnel in training.

The approximately 3,600 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic required each aircraft to conduct 9 air-air refuelling serials. The F-35B can fly for around 1,800nm but they were kept are topped up to allow an aircraft to reach a diversionary airfield in the case of a refuelling problem.

The flying petrol station – RAF Voyager tankers provided air-air refuelling.

In flight over the Atlantic, the F-35B looks beautiful and sleek

“Permission to buzz the tower”

Landing sequence

Lieutenant Commander Hogg, RN, the Executive Officer of 617 Squadron, lands the second F35 at RAF Marham.

Lt Cdr Adam Hogg is congratulated on his flight by Vice Admiral Ben Key – Fleet Commander, Air Chief Marshal Stephen Hillier, Defence Procurement Minister – Guto Bebb and Group Captain Ian Townsend – Marham Station Commander.

The newly-arrived aircraft are attended by mixed RN and RAF ground crews.

As part of ‘project Anvil’, around £550m has been invested in RAF Marham to get the base ready for the F-35. The base has seen an upgrade in facilities, resurfaced runways and the addition of new landing pads to accommodate the jet’s ability to land vertically.


Ever since aircraft first operated to and from ships, the Royal Navy has been at the forefront of maritime aviation and the arrival of our first F35Bs in the UK today, flown by both RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots, is another important milestone on the way to restoring our place as leaders in the field of aircraft carrier operations.” First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones

Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Cdre Andrew Betton speaks about F-35B arrival in UK.