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Defence secretary pays tribute to RAF Marham servicemen as Tornado jets are to be retired

PUBLISHED: 16:45 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:45 18 February 2019

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson at RAF Marham, where he announced Britain's F-35 Lightning stealth fighter was now operational  Picture: Chris Bishop

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson at RAF Marham, where he announced Britain's F-35 Lightning stealth fighter was now operational Picture: Chris Bishop

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Defence secretary Gavin Williamson has thanked service personnel and their families at RAF Marham as the Tornado jets based there are set to be retired.

The last Tornado jets, which had been stationed at stationed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and used in the fight against Islamic State, returned to RAF Marham last month.

And in the House of Commons on Monday North West North MP, Conservative Sir Henry Bellingham, asked Mr Williamson when he planned on visiting the base to discuss the wind down of Tornado and the future for the F35s now operating from the post.

Mr Williamson said he had visited the base in January to mark the end of the Tornado jets and added: “It is obviously with a heavy heart but enormous pride that farewell to our Tornadoes as this is very much the end of an era.

MORE: Tornado jets return to RAF Marham ready to retire

“However it is right we now look to the future, the combination of our F-35s and Typhoons will keep us as a world leader in combat air.”

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson meets air crews on a visit to RAF Marham Picture: Victoria PertusaDefence secretary Gavin Williamson meets air crews on a visit to RAF Marham Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Sir Henry asked Mr Williamson whether he would pay special tribute to the pilots and navigators who he said had shown “supreme courage” and were backed up by their land crew and families.

Mr Williamson said: “Well it is a whole community that delivers the fighting capability of Tornado and we’ve seen in countless conflicts right around the globe, whether it’s the First Gulf War, the Second Gulf War, whether it’s taking the fight to Daesh over Iraq and Syria, we have seen the Tornado. But we have an exciting future for RAF Marham with two new F-35 Squadrons to be created and an additional training squadron.”

MORE: Marham’s F-35 jets ‘ready to fly, ready to fight’

The Tornado, in service since 1979, will leave service before the end of March and there is expected to be a farewell fly past in coming weeks.

Air crew of the last three Tornadoes to return included 27-year-old Flight Lieutenant Nathan Shawyer, who was the last ever pilot to be trained for Tornado jet operations by the RAF, and 55-year-old Flight Lieutenant Chris Stradling who has accrued more than 6,000 hours of flying time in the aircraft.

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