New F35-B squadron stood up in America

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm Storyline: Aircraft

Royal Navy personnel are part of a new F-35B squadron which has stood up in the USA.

Fifty-four years after they were disbanded, 80 Squadron RAF stood up alongside the Royal Australian Air Force as they stood up their 80 Squadron in a joint ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

At the event the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Rich Knighton, and Chief of the Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman, formally awarded the dormant 80 Squadron numberplates for each service to their respective teams within the Australia, Canada and United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory.

Known as the ACURL, the multi-million-dollar, joint military data centre is designed to give each country’s F-35 Lightning jets operational advantage in the most dangerous and demanding combat missions.

The Royal Navy accounts for half of the contingent of 80 Squadron and is blend of Fleet Air Arm and Surface Fleet backgrounds, with aircrew, air engineers and electronic warfare specialists all coming together with their RAF and RAAF colleagues to sharpen the tip of the spear. 

Commander Chris Wilcox RN, who is the squadron’s new commanding officer, said: “80 Squadron provides a unique opportunity for overseas service for those in the Royal Navy and the chance to work at the leading edge of software and data enabled weapons systems. We are in the enviable position of being autonomous in the way that we work, innovate and develop this capability for our warfighters.”

Electronic Warfare Leading Hand Jeff Goodwin added: “Working overseas in Florida on F-35 mission data reprogramming has been a fantastic opportunity to both use and expand my EW knowledge as an LS EW in the Royal Navy. 

“Collaborating with US personnel as well as RAF & RAAF, along with getting the chance to participate in Exercise Pitch Black in Australia, where rapid reprogramming capabilities, in a simulated war environment were tested has been a particular highlight and very rewarding being that it is not something I would likely get to do outside of this role. 

“Fifth-generation fighter jet experience is rare in my branch and is invaluable experience to take back into my next assignment.”

Formed in 1917, 80 Squadron RAF has been stationed across the world. After service over the Western Front and then Egypt during the First World War, it reformed in 1937 and returned to North Africa. After service in the Eastern Mediterranean and Italy it returned to the UK in 1944 where 80 years ago it conducted fighter sweeps with Spitfires in preparation for D-Day.

The author Roald Dahl served in 80 Squadron during the Second World War. Re-equipped with Tempests, the squadron flew armed reconnaissance missions over the continent for the remainder of hostilities. Post-war it moved to Hong Kong and in 1955 it reformed in Germany with Canberra PR.7s which it operated until disbandment in 1969.

The RAAF 80 Squadron formed in 1943 and fought throughout the war in the Pacific theatre. Equipped with the P-40 Warhawk operations including covering Allied amphibious landings. It disbanded in 1946.

As well as the two frontline F-35B squadrons, 617 and 809, RN and RAF personnel are also working together in the F-35B training and test squadrons.