|Near Marham, Norfolk in England|
An RAF Tornado GR4 taking off from RAF Marham.
|Type||RAF Main Operating Base|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Controlled by||No. 1 Group (Air Combat)|
|Group Captain Ian Townsend|
|Identifiers||IATA: KNF, ICAO: EGYM, WMO: 03482|
|Elevation||23.5 metres (77 ft) AMSL|
|Source: RAF Marham Defence Aerodrome Manual|
It is home to No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing (138 EAW) and, as such, is one of the RAF's "Main Operating Bases" (MOB). No. 138 EAW primarily consists of two squadrons of Panavia Tornado GR4/GR4A multi-role fast-jet ground-attack aircraft.
The station crest depicts a glaring blue bull, symbolic of a deterrent and awarded in 1957 with the arrival of nuclear capability; the station motto is simply Deter. The crest also figures in the name of RAF Marham's local radio station - Blue Bull Radio 1278 AM.
In 2008 RAF Marham was officially granted the Freedom of the City of Norwich and, as such, is allowed to march through the streets of Norwich with 'bayonets fixed'; this is usually carried out on occasions such as the annual Battle of Britain parade held on 12 September every year. RAF Marham 'took over' the Freedom of the City of Norwich after the former holder, RAF Coltishall was officially closed in 2006.
Opened in August 1916 close to the former Royal Naval Air Station Narborough, later RAF Narborough, the Marham base was originally a military night landing ground on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) site within the boundary of the present day RAF Marham. In 1916, the aerodrome was handed over to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The aerodrome was closed in 1919 when the last units moved out.
In 1935 work started on a new airfield which became active on 1 April 1937, with a resident heavy bomber unit from within 3 Group, RAF Bomber Command. The first squadron, No 38, arrived in May 1937 with Fairey Hendon bombers. In June No. 115 Squadron RAF re-formed at Marham with the Handley Page Harrow. 38 Squadron received Wellington I bombers in December 1938, followed in 1939 by 115 Squadron. The Wellingtons moved out in 1941 and Mosquitos from No. 105 Squadron arrived. Marham became part of the Pathfinder force. They also tested and proved the Oboe precision bombing aid.
During March 1944 RAF Marham closed for the construction of new concrete runways, perimeter track, and dispersal areas, marking the end of its wartime operations. The three new runways were of the familiar wartime triangular pattern, but Marham was one of only two sites built as a heavy bomber airfield (the other was nearby RAF Sculthorpe) with the runways 50% longer than a standard wartime layout (9,000 ft/6,000 ft/6,000 ft rather than 6,000 ft/4,000 ft/4,000 ft) and also being 200 feet wide rather than the standard 150 feet.
In the postwar period the airfield was home to RAF units operating the Boeing B-29 Washington aircraft, and later the V bomber force and tankers: Vickers Valiant and Handley Page Victor. The station is also one of the few large enough for the operation of United States Air Force Boeing B-52, and a number of these aircraft visited on exercises in the 1970s and 1980s.
During 1980-82 24 Hardened Aircraft Shelters were constructed to house future strike aircraft, which would eventually see the arrival of the Panavia Tornado in 1982. These shelters were equipped with the US Weapon Storage Security System (WS3), each able to store 4 WE.177 nuclear bombs.
No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing (138 EAW) was formed at RAF Marham on 1 April 2006; encompassing most of the non-formed unit personnel on the station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station.
The current Station Commander is dual-hatted; as the commander of both the EAW and Station.
The station is close to the Royal Estate of Sandringham and Queen Elizabeth II is the Honorary Air Commodore of Marham and has made a number of visits to the airfield, most recently on 1 February 2016.
As part of the draw-down of the RAF's Tornado GR4 fleet, No. 12 Squadron disbanded on 14 February 2018. Squadron personnel were reassigned to Marham's other Tornado squadrons, No. 9 Squadron and No. 31 Squadron.
Role and operations
Operations at Marham are coordinated by the Operations Wing (Ops Wg), Base Support Wing (BSW), Depth Support Wing (DSW) and Forward Support Wing (FSW). The deployable elements of the station structure form the core of No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing.
The GR4A is the reconnaissance variant of the Panavia Tornado but the modern reconnaissance equipment used on the Tornado is interchangeable between the GR4 and GR4A variants, and as such each squadron uses a mix of the two variants (the reconnaissance equipment originally used in the GR4A variant is now obsolete).Formerly the Tactical Armament Squadron (TAS), No. 93 (Expeditionary Armament) Squadron's mission statement is "To deliver and develop specialist, expeditionary armament capability to support UK defence policy". It has approximately 130 staff and is a sub unit of No. 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing.
Royal Air Force
- Tornado GR Force
- Lightning Force
- Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing
- No. 3 RAF Force Protection Wing
- No. 3 RAF Force Protection Wing Headquarters
- No. 2620 (County of Norfolk) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force) Regiment
- No. 6 RAF Police Squadron
- Tornado Technical Services (a joint Royal Air Force and BAE Systems team).
- 20 Works Group Royal Engineers (Air Support)
- 534 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Airfields) (STRE)
- RAF Marham Aero Club - Cessna 150
F-35B Lightning II
The Ministry of Defence announced in March 2013 that the British fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft, which is to be operated jointly by the RAF and Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, will be based at RAF Marham. The Lightning is a fifth-generation short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) multi-role aircraft designed to operate from the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The first aircraft are arrived at Marham on 6 June 2018, when a four F-35Bs of No. 617 (Dambusters) Squadron, supported by three Voyagers and an Atlas, made an eight hour flight across the Atlantic from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. The RAF announced on 5 July 2017 that No. 207 Squadron will be the Operational Conversion Unit for the Lightning II. The squadron is expected to stand up at Marham on 1 July 2019. In 2023 the second front-line squadron, No. 809 Naval Air Squadron, will also form at the station. At least two further operational squadrons are expected to be established, one for each service, all of which are expected to be based at Marham.
Project Anvil is the £250 million programme of investment to provide Marham with new and upgraded infrastructure for Lightning II operations.
Contracts for enabling works, worth £25 million and undertaken by Balfour Beatty and Henry Brothers were signed in April 2016 with work commencing in May 2016. These works involved demolition of hangar no. 3 located on the north side of the airfield. The hangar dated from the 1930s and was last used for Tornado depth engineering. In its place will be the new Lightning Maintenance and Finish Facility. Other enabling work involved demolition of squadron offices in the south-west hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) site, upgrading of Marham's high voltage power supply and the installation of new service utilities.
In late 2016 Wates Construction Ltd were awarded a £27 million contract to construct a new squadron building for No. 617 Squadron in the south west HAS site. Construction began in March 2017 and is expected to be completed by April 2018.
The Lightning National Operating Centre (NOC) was constructed on the north-west side of the airfield, near the station golf course. The NOC will accommodate around 125 personnel who will form the Lightning Force Headquarters and Logistics Operating Centre. The NOC was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, the station's Honorary Air Commodore, on 2 February 2018 and was the first Protect Anvil building to be completed.
Balfour Beatty were awarded a contract worth £82.5m in April 2016 to construct a joint Lockheed Martin/BAE Systems Lightning European Maintenance Hub. The hub will comprise an Integrated Training Centre (ITC); the Logistics Operations Centre and a Maintenance and Finishing Facility (M&F) across three separate sites at Marham. The ITC will be located on the south side of the airfield and provide maintainer training and accommodate the Lightning Full Mission Simulators.
The final construction contracts, worth £135m, were awarded to Galliford Try and Lagan Construction in June 2017. The work includes construction of a new hangar to replace hangar no. 1, rebuilding of Marham's runways, installation of vertical landing pads, new taxiways and refurbishment of 90% of existing taxiways and airfield operating surfaces. Both runways were rebuilt during a three-week period (8–28 September 2017), which saw all flying cease and the laying of more than 18,000 tonnes of new asphalt. The resurfacing works were completed by June 2018.
Project Anvil also includes construction of servicing platforms and refurbishment of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS). Facilities for the OCU are to be located between the No. 617 Squadron HAS site and Integrated Training Centre.
RAF Marham is the 'parent' station of
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- Bishop, Chris (9 October 2017). "Runways ready for F35 Lightning jet at RAF Marham". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "News from the Lightning Basing Team". Marham Matters: 10–11. October 2017.
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- Disbanded on 28 July 2006, ending 55 years of RAF Canberra operations.
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