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F-35. No, really, F-35.


We're not making this one up. We did say we were going to make this the year with a lot of debuts.

What we didn't know is that we'd have more than just an Old Buckenham debut. We are simultaneously stunned and immensely grateful to the RAF and our friends at RAF Marham. Old Buckenham will be the first non-military airshow in the UK to welcome the UK's latest, most potent and technologically advanced aircraft; the Lockheed Martin F-35 B.

Operated, in this case, by the legendary 617 Squadron (yes, the Dambusters Squadron) this aircraft can fulfil any role you can think of; fighter, bomber, stealth reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. Stealth isn't what you immediately think of when you see this 27 tonne demonstration of how far technology has come; it is stealthy though and won't show up on enemy radar.

Based at RAF Marham, F-35's are operated by the RAF and Royal Navy. Aside from having one engine and the equivalent of 29,000hp they have a talent that even the brilliant Typhoon can't match - it's called STOVL. That stands for Short Take Off and Vertical Landing. This makes them ideal for taking off and landing on a Royal Navy aircraft carrier, for example.

They can carry nearly 7 tonnes of bombs. The top speed is a dizzying Mach 1.6 (1,227 mph), rather impressive for an aircraft that can still be airborne at a speed of zero mph.

What we can say; whilst it technically (easily) could land and take off from Old Buckenham, mercifully it won't. When the nozzle is pointed at the ground the forces which allow 27 tonnes to essentially hover are immense. It's entirely possible that the entire surface of our runway would be blown off which would be slightly very massively expensive. We will also have millions of pounds of irreplaceable warbirds on the ground and the downdraft would deposit them in Suffolk. So please don't expect that it'll be hovering around - it won't. What it will be doing is demonstrating what happens when speed, noise and technology all come together. Radar might not be able to see it - if you're here you most certainly will.

If you're here on the 27th July it's presence will be absolutely staggering enough - making Old Buckenham the place where it'll be seen for the first time ever at a non-military UK Airshow. All we can do is remain stunned and say thank you so much, RAF, and our brilliant friends at Marham.

Images courtesy of Paul Johnson, Flightline UK

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David Pugh
David Pugh
11 abr

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