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Defence and Security Strategy

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, Vigilance can reveal.

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.


A source at the Mod said the Lightning II aircraft would be jointly operated by pilots from the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force, adding 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. 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 enthused: “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.

Admiral Zambellas: “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