No 207 Squadron Announced as RAF F-35B OCU

The first UK Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, ZM135. Ten have now been handed over to the UK and 207 Squadron has been announced as the operational conversion unit for the type. Lockheed Martin

UK MINISTRY of Defence officials have revealed that 207 Squadron is to be the unit that will act as the operational conversion unit (OCU) to train future RAF and Royal Navy pilots on the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II at RAF Marham, Norfolk.  The announcement was made during a visit to the base on July 5 by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones.

While at Marham, they views the progress being made in the preparations for the arrival of the first F-35Bs at the base next summer.  The formal announcement of selection of 207 Squadron as the F-35B OCU was made at Marham by ACM Hillier.  The new infrastructure at Marham includes vertical landing pads, renewal of the runways and taxiways, plus new technical and training facilities, offices and hangars.

The first Lightnings to arrive at Marham in summer 2018 will arrive from the USA at 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron.  The Lightning OCU will stand up as 207 Squadron on July 1, 2019.  In 2023, the Fleet Air Arm’s 809 Naval Air Squadron will also re-form to operate the F-35B.

Initial flight trials of the type on the HMS Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers is on track to begin in 2018, building towards a Carrier Strike capability for the UK from 2020.  To date ten UK F-35Bs have been delivered, with Initial Operating Capability planned for December 2018 and 48 F-35Bs delivered by January 2025.  Under current plans, the UK will purchase an eventual total of 138 F-35Bs.

No 207 Squadron’s history dates back to December 31, 1916, when it was formed as No 7 Squadron RNAS at Petite-Synthe, France.  On the formation of the RAF on April 1, 1918, it became 207 Squadron, RAF, moving to Netheravon, Wiltshire.  In its most recent incarnation, it was re-formed on July 12, 2002, at RAF Lionton-on-Ouse, North Yorksire, as 207 (Reserve) Squadron, flying the Tucano T1 as part of 1 Flying Training School.  It was disbanded on January 13, 2012, as part of the changes announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.