Britain's new £150m F-35 Lightning fighter jets land in Norfolk after flight across Atlantic

Four of the stealth jets, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, made the 3,000-mile journey from South Carolina to their permanent base at RAF Marham in around eight hours.

RAF cadets and the families of the four 617 squadron pilots lined up on the edge of the taxiway to watch the wheels hit the tarmac.

The four servicemen, who were supported by an RAF refuelling vessel, were greeted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier and other dignitaries.

RAF top brass were left red faced yesterday when the cutting edge jets, capable of operating under all conditions, were grounded because of "adverse weather".

Insiders later revealed pilots and Royal Air Force chiefs wanted "optimal flying conditions" for the highly anticipated crossing.

What makes the F-35 Lightning II so deadly?

The F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation, multi-role combat aircraft designed to engage ground and air targets.

It is armed with a four-barrel GAU-22/A cannon with up to 220 rounds.

The jet can also carry Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM surface missiles and laser-guided bombs.

Its angular design, covered with radar-absorbent materials to avoid being easily detected by enemy sensors.

The jet was also built to give off a faint infrared and visual signature to help evade heat-seeking missiles.

Experts claim it would be 'invisible' to modern, high-frequency radars.

Its cockpit features a state-of-the-art glass touch screen and voice recognition system to aid the pilot.

Images from six cameras give the pilot a 360-degree infrared map of the surroundings straight to their visor.

And a supersmart on board computer helps the pilot analyse the battlefield and identify targets.

Lockheed Martin's Steve Over said the 'formidable' jets would act as a deterrent to other nations.

'Russia and China will push until they meet a point of resistance and this aircraft gives nations like the UK the edge,' he told the Daily Mail.

"It's like a brand new Ferrari," a source said. "You wouldn't take it out on its first long drive in a hail storm."

But the F-35s, considered the most advanced fighting aircraft, still landed two months ahead of schedule.

The "formidable fighters" will help protect the UK and its allies from "intensifying threats across the world", according to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

He added: "With a game-changing ability to collect crucial intelligence, fight wars and tackle terrorism, these are the most advanced jets in British history.

The state-of-the art F-35 Lightning II jet by numbers

  • 15.6: Length in metres
  • 10.7: Wingspan in metres
  • 1,200: Maximum speed in MPH
  • 150: Max range in miles at supersonic speed without refuelling
  • 27,000: Maximum take-off weight in kg
  • 150million: Cost of producing a single jet in GBP
  • 550million: Investment at RAF Marham in GBP

The jets, jointly operated by the RAF and the Royal Navy, will be deployed from land and sea, including off the decks of the new £3.1billion Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier.

"If you can't see us coming, you won't be able to stop us," said ACM Hillier, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in the 1991 Gulf War.

He added: "With its stealth and other world-beating technologies the F-35 Lightning takes the RAF and Royal Navy to a whole a new level of capability."

Another five jets, all capable of speeds of more than 1,200mph, will join the aircraft at RAF Marham by the beginning of August.

Around £550million has been invested into getting the base ready for the jets, according to the the Ministry of Defence.

The officer commander for 617 squadron, Wing Commander John Butcher, previously said the plan is for him to land first.

After landing, he added: "This is probably the biggest moment in my RAF career to date."

He said it will feel "absolutely fantastic" completing the 3,000-mile journey and one he was very much looking forward to.

The cutting edge, multi-role fighters are designed to perform ground attacks

Is the F-35b a waste of money?

Last year, a Times investigation claimed British taxpayers were forking out for new war planes that won't work properly due to defence cuts.

It quoted one former officer as saying the F-35 Lightning II, the most expensive jet of its kind, was 'utterly pathetic'.

They were initially supposed to cost £77 million, then £100 million but the price tag was eventually raised to £150million.

Those extras were said to include software updates, spare parts and and "cost reduction initiatives".

The plane is designed to take off and land vertically but US documents reportedly revealed the planes were too heavy to do that safely.

Other problems mean the jet cannot transmit data to British ships or older planes without revealing its position to the enemy, the Times claimed.

It is also claimed broadband on Britain’s main aircraft carrier is four times weaker than an average UK household.

And the plane's £12billion software system was feared to be vulnerable to cyber attack.

Wing Commander Butcher, 37, said the entire squadron was excited at the prospect of the arriving jets.

Hoping for "clear skies and fair winds" for the flight, he said there will be 12 to 15 refuelling contacts per jet during the crossing.

Britain currently has 15 F-35bs, the short take off and vertical landing variant of the jets, based in the US.

It has pledged to purchase 138 in total from American aviation giant, Lockheed Martin.

The arrival of the multi-million pound aircraft had been expected to take place on Tuesday.

But it was postponed, owing to what the Ministry of Defence cited as safety fears due to adverse weather over the Atlantic.

An RAF spokesman said peacetime rules flight safety is always put first.

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