Dambusters to fly again! MoD reforms elite squadron for ‘special mission’ | UK | News

The 617 Squadron will be in charge of the MoD’s most advanced combat jet – the multi-million pound stealth F-35B and will be in operation from next year.

Head of the new team Wing Commander John Butcher said the original Dambusters team would be “quite amazed” by the new cutting-edge warplane.

Formed at RAF Scampton during the Second World War on March 21, 1943 the original 617 Squadron was set up specifically to destroy Germany’s major dams using the famous “bouncing bombs”.

Despite the squadron’s legendary status, their daring raids even being made into a 1955 film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd, it was disbanded in 2014.

Wing Commander Butcher said: “They were formed nearly 75 years ago for a very special purpose, and that was to bring cutting-edge technology into service for a very special mission.

“And for me I can see a lot of parallels with what we are being asked to do now.

“We are bringing very special technology into service – once again for a very, very special mission, which is to bring stealth and combat air capability to UK defence.

“I think there is a nice link there between what our forefathers did with 617 squadron, and what we are now doing.”

Britain has already signed a contract for the initial batch of 48 fighter jets which will cost an estimated £9.1 billion by 2025, which includes support costs such as training and maintenance.

The UK currently has 13 F-35s in the United States being tested ahead of flight trials off the ship late next year – with one more plane being delivered by the end of 2017.

The new squadron will consist of both RAF and Royal Navy pilots and will be based at RAF Marham, Norfolk.

Wing Commander Butcher has been based at US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on America’s east coast since August, and had to undertake weeks of ground school training before his first flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review declared Britain would “maintain our plan to buy 138 F35 Lightning aircraft” over the coming decades.

Britain’s last surviving member of the original Dambusters was recently honoured by the Queen with an MBE.

Squadron Leader George Leonard “Johnny” Johnson, 95, collected his award at Buckingham Palace for services to remembrance of the Second World War and to the community in Bristol.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Johnson said the Queen told him: “Glad to see the Dambusters are still here.”

Mr Johnson is now one of only two surviving members, the other is…

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