Infrastructure works to prepare RAF Marham for the arrival of the F-35B Lightning multi-role combat aircraft next year are well underway at the Norfolk base. Over £500m is being invested in new infrastructure under the banner of Project Anvil, named after a type of lightning.
When 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, arrive at RAF Marham next summer they will benefit from an extensive project which will includes the construction of the management, maintenance, training and operational facilities required for the new aircraft, and the refurbishment of 90% the airfield operating surfaces.
Project Anvil spans across the Station with eight main development sites during which time RAF Marham has continued to deliver high tempo Tornado GR4 operations.
The first real evidence of the work starting was the demolition of 3 Hangar to make way for the new Maintenance and Finishing Facility (M&F) which will provide the engineering support to the aircraft along with a bespoke finishing paint facility. Nearby the National Operating Centre (NOC) will be the first building to be handed over in early 2018 and will be the HQ for the Lightning Force and the Lightning Delivery Team for airworthiness and logistic support.
On the South side of the airfield, the skyline is changing with the construction of the Integrated Training Centre (ITC). When completed the ITC will provide UK Lightning maintainer training and house the Lightning Full Mission Simulators.
There have been a number of enabling works and upgrades to the utilities and services with the most significant of these being the installation of a new transformer. Work has been taking place underground with over 10km of trenches dug to enable the new buildings to be connected to power, water supplies and communication networks.
Wates have the contract for construction work on the new 617 Squadron site. It includes new Squadron buildings and refurbishment of the existing Hardened Aircraft Shelters where the aircraft will be housed.
In September 2016, work started on a new access gate from the A1122. The gate ensures minimum disruption on the local community from the construction traffic. It was the first project to be completed and the gate opened in May 2017 for the exclusive access of Anvil contractors working on the South side of the airfield; approximately 180 lorries are expected through the gate per day.
One of the latest contracts to be awarded was the building of the Operational Conversion Unit, where 207 Squadron will reside, refurbishment of 90% of the Station’s Aircraft Operating Surfaces and the provision of new Vertical Landing pads with associated new taxiways. This is one of Project Anvil’s biggest contracts in terms of value and working area and was awarded to Galliford Try Lagan Construction.
These works started in the summer of 2017 and saw the closure of the runway for a three-week period in September 2017 to allow intersection works to be completed. This challenging task necessitated 24/7 working to ensure that the runway was re-opened again in time for the return of the Tornado squadrons from an exercise in which they had been participating.
Project Anvil contracts are being managed by both Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). DE&S projects are being delivered by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems and supported by Balfour Beatty. The first of the DE&S contracts to be awarded was for the delivery of the M&F, NOC and ITC. The remaining enabling works, 617 Squadron, 207 Squadron Operational Conversion Unit and Aircraft Operating Surface contracts are being delivered through DIO with a number of different contracts being awarded.
• In 2013 it was announced by the Secretary of State for Defence that RAF Marham would be the future base for the F-35 Lightning, the Royal Air Force’s and Royal Navy’s new stealth fighter. The F-35 Lightning is an advanced, next generation aircraft procured to operate alongside the RAF’s Typhoon. It will be jointly manned by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, will be able to operate with equal capability from land and sea, and will form an integral part of Carrier Strike operating from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
• The UK F-35 Lightning is a multi-role combat aircraft, meaning that a single aircraft can conduct the roles and missions of different aircraft types simultaneously. These include air-air operations, air-to-surface operations and intelligence gathering. With advanced sensors, mission systems and low-observable (stealth), the F-35 Lightning is a next generation air system which will provide the UK with world beating combat air capability.
• A number of bricks were taken from the 1930’s vintage Hangar 3 and recycled to build a memorial wall in the Station’s Aviation Heritage Centre.