With the recent confirmation of RAF Marham as the main Operating Base for the the UK’s F35B stealth jets the RAF and Fleet Air Arm have been finalising plans for Joint Force Lightning.
The MoD has since confirmed that a similar operating model to the Sentinel organisation model, that sees personnel from both the RAF and Army combined in the 5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron.
It is a truly jointly manned RAF Squadron and the Officer Commanding, Wg Cdr Allan Marshall, has a current complement of approximately 250 personnel, split between RAF and Army. When at full strength, the Squadron will have over 300 RAF, Army and civilian personnel, making No 5 (AC) Sqn one of the largest flying Sqn in the RAF by some margin. The composition of the Sqn is like no other, as it requires RAF from all walks of life and eight different Army cap badges to deliver this hugely diverse military capability.
Based at RAF Marham, II (Army Cooperation) Squadron currently operates the Tornado GR4.
The oldest fixed-wing flying squadron in the world. Since its formation in 1912, the Squadron has lived-up to its informal motto of ‘Second to None’. Its many achievements include the first use of airborne cameras in 1914, the award of the first air Victoria Cross in 1915 and the first pictures of the D-Day landings in 1944. Today the Squadron remains a key part of the RAF’s front-line, maintaining the capability to conduct reconnaissance and attack operations where ever and when ever required.
When the F35B Lightning II joins the squadron sometime towards the end of the decade it will rename and form the first operational squadron for the new Joint Force Lightning (JFL)
Pilots from the Fleet Air Arm will join the existing complement of RAF personnel.
Commenting on the announcement, RAF Wing Commander Johnson said;
I am looking forward to the challenge of bringing the first JFL aircraft into operational service and working closely with our colleagues from the Fleet Air Arm. The UK must maximise on its investment in the Joint Strike Fighter programme and together with the Typhoon will provide a potent and flexible combination that can be operated equally from land or sea. II (NC) Squadron will form a vital part of Carrier Strike when embarked although initially this will likely be for limited periods as land based training will take precedence. Bringing a new aircraft into service and integrating it with Typhoon will require a considerable effort which will necessarily take priority.
It is also likely that II(NC) Squadron will share many facilities with the USAF at RAF Lakenheath as they eventually replace their F-15E’s with the F-35A.