Open main menu

Royal Air Force Marham, or more simply RAF Marham (IATA: KNF, ICAO: EGYM), is a Royal Air Force station and military airbase near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia.

RAF Marham
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Marham, Norfolk in England
Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 from RAF Marham MOD 45152535.jpg
An RAF Tornado GR4 taking off from RAF Marham.
Raf marham badge.jpg
RAF Marham is located in Norfolk
RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Shown within Norfolk
Coordinates52°38′54″N 000°33′02″E / 52.64833°N 0.55056°E / 52.64833; 0.55056Coordinates: 52°38′54″N 000°33′02″E / 52.64833°N 0.55056°E / 52.64833; 0.55056
TypeRAF Main Operating Base
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 1 Group (Air Combat)
Site history
Built1916 (1916)
In use1916-Present
Garrison information
Group Captain Ian Townsend
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: KNF, ICAO: EGYM, WMO: 03482
Elevation23.5 metres (77 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
06/24 2,784 metres (9,134 ft) Asphalt/Concrete
01/19 1,854 metres (6,083 ft) Asphalt/Concrete
Source: RAF Marham Defence Aerodrome Manual[1]

It is home to No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing (138 EAW) and, as such, is one of the RAF's "Main Operating Bases" (MOB). No. 138 EAW primarily consists of two squadrons of Panavia Tornado GR4/GR4A multi-role fast-jet ground-attack aircraft.

The station crest depicts a glaring blue bull, symbolic of a deterrent and awarded in 1957 with the arrival of nuclear capability; the station motto is simply Deter. The crest also figures in the name of RAF Marham's local radio station - Blue Bull Radio 1278 AM.

In 2008 RAF Marham was officially granted the Freedom of the City of Norwich and, as such, is allowed to march through the streets of Norwich with 'bayonets fixed'; this is usually carried out on occasions such as the annual Battle of Britain parade held on 12 September every year. RAF Marham 'took over' the Freedom of the City of Norwich after the former holder, RAF Coltishall, was officially closed in 2006.




Opened in August 1916 close to the former Royal Naval Air Station Narborough, later RAF Narborough, the Marham base was originally a military night landing ground on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) site within the boundary of the present day RAF Marham. In 1916, the aerodrome was handed over to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The aerodrome was closed in 1919 when the last units moved out.


The new concrete runways viewed in 1944

In 1935 work started on a new airfield which became active on 1 April 1937, with a resident heavy bomber unit from within 3 Group, RAF Bomber Command. The first squadron, No 38, arrived in May 1937 with Fairey Hendon bombers. In June No. 115 Squadron RAF re-formed at Marham with the Handley Page Harrow. 38 Squadron received Wellington I bombers in December 1938, followed in 1939 by 115 Squadron. The Wellingtons moved out in 1941 and Mosquitos from No. 105 Squadron arrived. Marham became part of the Pathfinder force. They also tested and proved the Oboe precision bombing aid.

During March 1944 RAF Marham closed for the construction of new concrete runways, perimeter track, and dispersal areas, marking the end of its wartime operations. The three new runways were of the familiar wartime triangular pattern, but Marham was one of only two sites built as a heavy bomber airfield (the other was nearby RAF Sculthorpe) with the runways 50% longer than a standard wartime layout (9,000 ft/6,000 ft/6,000 ft rather than 6,000 ft/4,000 ft/4,000 ft) and also being 200 feet wide rather than the standard 150 feet.


In the postwar period the airfield was home to RAF units operating the Boeing B-29 Washington aircraft, and later the V bomber force and tankers: Vickers Valiant and Handley Page Victor. The station is also one of the few large enough for the operation of United States Air Force Boeing B-52, and a number of these aircraft visited on exercises in the 1970s and 1980s.

During 1980-82 24 Hardened Aircraft Shelters were constructed to house future strike aircraft, which would eventually see the arrival of the Panavia Tornado in 1982. These shelters were equipped with the US Weapon Storage Security System (WS3), each able to store 4 WE.177 nuclear bombs.[2]

No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing (138 EAW) was formed at RAF Marham on 1 April 2006; encompassing most of the non-formed unit personnel on the station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station.

The current Station Commander is dual-hatted; as the commander of both the EAW and Station.

The station is close to the Royal Estate of Sandringham and Queen Elizabeth II is the Honorary Air Commodore of Marham[3] and has made a number of visits to the airfield,[4] most recently on 1 February 2016.[5]

As part of the draw-down of the RAF's Tornado GR4 fleet, No. 12 Squadron disbanded on 14 February 2018. Squadron personnel were reassigned to Marham's other Tornado squadrons, No. 9 Squadron and No. 31 Squadron.[6]

Role and operationsEdit

Operations at Marham are coordinated by the Operations Wing (Ops Wg), Base Support Wing (BSW), Depth Support Wing (DSW) and Forward Support Wing (FSW). The deployable elements of the station structure form the core of No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing.

The GR4A is the reconnaissance variant of the Panavia Tornado but the modern reconnaissance equipment used on the Tornado is interchangeable between the GR4 and GR4A variants, and as such each squadron uses a mix of the two variants (the reconnaissance equipment originally used in the GR4A variant is now obsolete).[citation needed]Formerly the Tactical Armament Squadron (TAS), No. 93 (Expeditionary Armament) Squadron's mission statement is "To deliver and develop specialist, expeditionary armament capability to support UK defence policy". It has approximately 130 staff and is a sub unit of No. 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing.

Based unitsEdit

Tornado GR4 in flight over RAF Marham

Flying and major non-flying units based at RAF Marham.[7][8]

Royal Air ForceEdit

No. 1 Group (Air Combat) RAF

No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support) RAF

Other Units

  • Tornado Technical Services (a joint Royal Air Force and BAE Systems team).

British ArmyEdit

Royal Engineers (8 Engineer Brigade, 12 (Force Support) Engineer Group)

  • 20 Works Group Royal Engineers (Air Support)
    • 534 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Airfields) (STRE)[9]



A RAF F-35B Lightning II over RAF Marham during July 2016 with the construction site of the Lightning Maintenance and Finish Facility visible below.

F-35B Lightning IIEdit

The Ministry of Defence announced in March 2013 that the British fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II aircraft, which is to be operated jointly by the RAF and Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, will be based at RAF Marham.[10] The Lightning is a fifth-generation short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) multi-role aircraft designed to operate from the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

The first aircraft arrived at Marham on 6 June 2018, when four F-35Bs of No. 617 (Dambusters) Squadron, supported by three Voyagers and an Atlas, made an eight-hour flight across the Atlantic from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.[11] The RAF announced on 5 July 2017 that No. 207 Squadron will be the Operational Conversion Unit for the Lightning II. The squadron is expected to stand up at Marham on 1 July 2019.[12] In 2023 the second front-line squadron, No. 809 Naval Air Squadron, will also form at the station. At least two further operational squadrons are expected to be established, one for each service, all of which are expected to be based at Marham. The first operational unit was declared ready with 617 'Dambusters' Squadron being the first to operate the aircraft. As of 11 January 2019, the F-35B Lightning is operational with the Royal Air Force.

Project AnvilEdit

Project Anvil is the £250 million programme of investment to provide Marham with new and upgraded infrastructure for Lightning II operations.[13]

Contracts for enabling works, worth £25 million and undertaken by Balfour Beatty and Henry Brothers were signed in April 2016 with work commencing in May 2016. These works involved demolition of hangar no. 3 located on the north side of the airfield. The hangar dated from the 1930s and was last used for Tornado depth engineering. In its place will be the new Lightning Maintenance and Finish Facility.[14] Other enabling work involved demolition of squadron offices in the south-west hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) site, upgrading of Marham's high voltage power supply and the installation of new service utilities.

In late 2016 Wates Construction Ltd were awarded a £27 million contract to construct a new squadron building for No. 617 Squadron in the south west HAS site. Construction began in March 2017 and is expected to be completed by April 2018.[15]

The Lightning National Operating Centre (NOC) was constructed on the north-west side of the airfield, near the station golf course. The NOC will accommodate around 125 personnel who will form the Lightning Force Headquarters and Logistics Operating Centre.[14] The NOC was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, the station's Honorary Air Commodore, on 2 February 2018 and was the first Protect Anvil building to be completed.[16]

The Lightning Integrated Training Centre under construction during 2017.

Balfour Beatty were awarded a contract worth £82.5m in April 2016 to construct a joint Lockheed Martin/BAE Systems Lightning European Maintenance Hub. The hub will comprise an Integrated Training Centre (ITC); the Logistics Operations Centre and a Maintenance and Finishing Facility (M&F) across three separate sites at Marham.[17] The ITC will be located on the south side of the airfield and provide maintainer training and accommodate the Lightning Full Mission Simulators.[14]

The final construction contracts, worth £135m, were awarded to Galliford Try and Lagan Construction in June 2017. The work includes construction of a new hangar to replace hangar no. 1, rebuilding of Marham's runways, installation of vertical landing pads, new taxiways and refurbishment of 90% of existing taxiways and airfield operating surfaces.[18] Both runways were rebuilt during a three-week period (8–28 September 2017), which saw all flying cease and the laying of more than 18,000 tonnes of new asphalt.[19][20] The resurfacing works were completed by June 2018.[21]

Project Anvil also includes construction of servicing platforms and refurbishment of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS). Facilities for the OCU are to be located between the No. 617 Squadron HAS site and Integrated Training Centre.[14]

Supported unitsEdit

RAF Marham is the 'parent' station of

Former squadronsEdit

RAF Canberra PR9 from 39(1PRU) Squadron RAF
Squadron Present Aircraft
No. II Squadron RAF 1992-2015 Panavia Tornado
No. 12 Squadron RAF 1993–1994


Panavia Tornado
No. 13 Squadron RAF 1994–2011 Panavia Tornado
No. 15 Squadron RAF 1950–1951 Avro Lincoln
No. 27 Squadron RAF 1983–1993 Panavia Tornado
No. 35 Squadron RAF 1951–1956 Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 38 Squadron RAF 1937–1940 Fairey Hendon, Vickers Wellington
No. 39 Squadron RAF 1993–2006 English Electric Canberra.[22]
No. 44 Squadron RAF 1946–1951 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington
No. 49 Squadron RAF 1961–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 51 Squadron RAF 1917–1919 RAF F.E.2b
No. 55 Squadron RAF 1966–1993 Handley Page Victor
No. 57 Squadron RAF 1951-1951 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington
No. 57 Squadron RAF 1966–1986 Handley Page Victor
No. 90 Squadron RAF 1950–1956 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 100 Squadron RAF 1976–1982 English Electric Canberra
No. 105 Squadron RAF 1942–1944 de Havilland Mosquito
No. 109 Squadron RAF 1943–1944 de Havilland Mosquito
No. 115 Squadron RAF 1937–1941 Fairey Hendon, Handley Page Harrow, Vickers Wellington
No. 115 Squadron RAF 1950–1957 Avro Lincoln, Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 139 Squadron RAF 1942–1943 De Havilland Mosquito
No. 148 Squadron RAF 1956–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 149 Squadron RAF 1950-1950 Avro Lincoln
No. 207 Squadron RAF 1951–1956 Boeing Washington, English Electric Canberra
No. 207 Squadron RAF 1956–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 214 Squadron RAF 1956–1965 Vickers Valiant
No. 214 Squadron RAF 1966–1977 Handley Page Victor
No. 218 Squadron RAF 1940–1942 Vickers Wellington, Short Stirling
No. 242 Squadron RAF 1959–1964 Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missile
No. 617 Squadron RAF 1983–1994 Panavia Tornado
No. 231 OCU 1976-1982 English Electric Canberra
No. 232 OCU 1970-1986 Handley Page Victor K2

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "RAF Marham Defence Aerodrome Manual (DAM)" (PDF). RAF Marham. Military Aviation Authority. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  2. ^ Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen (November–December 2004), U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, 1954–2004 (PDF), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, retrieved 2009-06-11
  3. ^ "The Queen visits RAF Marham, Norfolk, in her role as Honorary Air Commodore". British Monarchy. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Queen visits RAF Marham". Retrieved 7 November 2015.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Queen cheered on visit to RAF Marham: February 3". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  6. ^ "12(B) Squadron Bids Farewell to the Tornado GR4". Royal Air Force. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  7. ^ "RAF Marham – Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  8. ^ "Marham Aero Club". RAF Flying Clubs' Association. Archived from the original on 2008-02-02. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  9. ^ "An introduction to...20 Works Group Royal Engineers" (PDF). Wittering View. Lance Publishing Ltd.: 18 Spring 2015.
  10. ^ "Defence Estate rationalisation update". Ministry of Defence. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Four RAF F-35 fighter jets land in UK". BBC News. 6 June 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Identity of F-35 Lightning Training Squadron Announced". Royal Air Force. 5 July 2017. Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  13. ^ Bishop, Chris (13 July 2017). "Project Anvil brings 1,200 jobs to Norfolk, as RAF Marham upgrade takes off". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d "News from the Lightning Basing Team" (PDF). Marham Matters: 5. April 2017.
  15. ^ "Wates' work on next generation aircraft base brings boost to Norfolk economy". Wates. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.[dead link]
  16. ^ "Her Majesty the Queen Visits RAF Marham". Royal Air Force. 2 February 2018. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Balfour Beatty awarded £82.5 million F-35 contract at RAF Marham, Norfolk". Balfour Beatty. 7 April 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  18. ^ "£135M infrastructure contract marks milestone in UK F35 programme -". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  19. ^ Bishop, Chris (9 October 2017). "Runways ready for F35 Lightning jet at RAF Marham". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  20. ^ "News from the Lightning Basing Team". Marham Matters: 10–11. October 2017.
  21. ^ "Ready for F-35s: runway resurfaced at RAF Marham". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence, Defence Equipment and Support, and Defence Infrastructure Organisation. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  22. ^ Disbanded on 28 July 2006, ending 55 years of RAF Canberra operations.

External linksEdit