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'Immortal’ air squadron to fly Royal Navy’s newest jets

Historic images of 809 NAS Buccaneers operating from the deck of the old HMS Ark Royal (IV) in the 1970s courtesy of the NN archives

09/09/2013

An historic naval air squadron is to be resurrected as the first Royal Navy formation to fly the UK’s Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft

The early naming of 809 alongside the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron is a very visible demonstration of a joint ambition, spirit of collaboration and shared equity in the Joint Lightning Force.
Admiral Sir George Zambellas

809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), whose motto is simply ‘Immortal’, is to be reformed to operate the stealth fifth generation aircraft that will fly off the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Class carriers from 2018.

The Lightning II aircraft will be jointly operated by pilots from the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force. Earlier this year, it was announced by the Chief of the Air Staff that the famous 617 Dambusters Squadron would be the first RAF Squadron to fly the jets. Both Royal Navy and RAF pilots are already training on the Lightning II aircraft alongside the US Marine Corps at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

809 Naval Air Squadron, which dates back to the Second World War, has been selected by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas because of its history of striking at the enemy in operations across the globe.

In previous incarnations, aircraft from 809 supported an attack on Hitler’s flagship, supported the invasions of North Africa, Italy and southern France during World War 2 and saw action in the Suez in 1956.

It was last re-formed to support operations in the Falklands, flying off the decks of HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. 809 also flew the Navy’s last Buccaneer, a low level strike bomber flown in the 1960s and 1970s.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas said:

“I am delighted to announce that the name of the second Lightning II squadron, when it forms, will be 809 Naval Air Squadron. This squadron number is chosen to link with and reflect the proud and distinguished history of embarked carrier strike, from the Second World War to the Falklands.

“The early naming of 809 alongside the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron is a very visible demonstration of a joint ambition, spirit of collaboration and shared equity in the Joint Lightning Force.”

When not at sea as part of the UK’s carrier strike force, 809 will be based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. The joint nature of the Squadrons means Naval personnel will serve with The Dambusters and their Air Force counterparts will do likewise on 809 NAS.

Read more about the squadron here: 809-Naval-Air-Squadron

Read the full text of the First Sea Lord's speech here: 130909-1SL-RUSI-speech

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