Published 15 December 2023

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It’s referred to as “our nation’s spearhead” with a unique role as a self-contained force that can work independently or as part of wider operations.

The Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group offers cutting-edge air, surface and underwater defence, but it is also a focal point for the worldwide democratic activity that is more powerful than any weaponry.

Comprising a vast array of world class platforms including fast jets, helicopters, destroyers, frigates, nuclear submarines, support vessels and minesweepers with a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier at its core, the CSG is a formidable, potent and flexible fighting force.

The huge arsenal of weaponry across the Carrier Strike Group is more than just a show of strength. It allows the UK to carry out whatever peacekeeping operations are necessary.

And there is no more devastating symbol of that awesome firepower than the F-35B Lightning aircraft , capable of everything from aerial combat to neutralising threats on the ground.

The F-35B Lightning is “multi-role”, meaning that a single aircraft can conduct multiple roles and missions. Operating from land and sea, these include air-to-surface, electronic warfare, intelligence gathering and air-to-air missions.

Sensor fusion and data linking provide the pilot with unprecedented situational awareness, and low observable technology minimises detection in hostile environments. Combined with advanced mission systems, radar and electronic warfare systems, F-35B is a true fifth generation combat aircraft.

The F-35B puts the UK at the cutting-edge of global air-borne military capability.

But, like all military platforms, they don’t perform in a vacuum.

Providing the aircraft and air system to the joint RAF/RN team who operate the F35B is a full-time job for DE&S’ F-35B Lightning Delivery Team which is on call 24/7, 365 days helping  to solve problems to keep the jets airborne wherever they are in the world.

Based between RAF Marham in Norfolk – where the UK’s fleet of F-35Bs are housed and maintained, DE&S’ headquarters at Bristol Abbey Wood, and personnel based in the F-35 Joint Program Office in Washington DC, the 190-strong F-35B Lightning Delivery Team works alongside Industry and international allies to keep the aircraft performing at optimum capability.

The DE&S F-35B Operations Lead said:

“For the Carrier Strike Group deployment, we have worked side by side with our customer, industry and international allies to make sure solutions to any issues found are addressed and answered  swiftly and efficiently, no matter where in the world the aircraft are located.

“We work together as a single enterprise ensuring that, when any issue arises, we have the right people coming together rapidly with industry, customer and Joint Program Office to solve the problem and keep the aircraft flying.

The F35 is currently the largest  defence project in the world and the UK is one of 8 Partner Nations involved in the design, development and manufacture of the air system. Whilst the F-35 Program project is led by the US DoD a large percentage of each aircraft is designed, developed, manufactured and supported in the UK. For example the aft fuselage, batteries, ejector seats and actuators are manufactured in the UK for the entire F-35 global fleet.

RAF Marham has a state-of-the-art pilot and engineer training centre along with purpose built aircraft repair and maintenance facilities, meaning aircraft can be maintained and updated generating high skill jobs and capabilities in the UK. These facilities are run in partnership between the RAF/RN, Industry and DE&S.

The DE&S Lightning Delivery Team located at RAF Marham say they are privileged to work as part of the enterprise where they get to see these incredible aircraft on a daily basis. The whole team is dedicated and committed to keeping UK F-35Bs operational and battle-ready and the team feel an enormous sense of pride keeping the nation and allies safe.