Lockheed Martin UK Century of Support for the Royal Air Force

Century of Support for the Royal Air Force

This year, the Royal Air Force, the world’s first independent air force celebrates its centenary. We look back at how Lockheed Martin has supported the RAF from its early days.

Lockheed Martin has a long-standing, strategic relationship with the Royal Air Force, the world’s first independent air force and we are proud to support the celebrations taking place this year to mark the RAF’s 100th anniversary. Lockheed Martin and our heritage companies have had a key role in delivering and maintaining capability for frontline Squadrons for more than 75 years.   

In the first half of the twentieth century, iconic aircraft such as the Lockheed Hudson, Martin B-26 Marauder and Consolidated B-24 Liberator had distinguished service with the RAF in peace time and in times of conflict.

Over the past fifty years, the C-130J Super Hercules has been the backbone of the RAF’s tactical air transport fleet. Now, the F-35, the RAFs first 5th generation aircraft and the worlds most advanced multirole, combat aircraft, will continue our relationship for another 50 years.

Three examples of aircraft that Lockheed Martin’s heritage companies provided to the RAF:

B-24 Liberator
Lockheed Hudson


The first C-130 was delivered to the RAF on December 16, 1966. Since then, the Hercules fleet has been supporting critical missions across the world; from delivering supplies to people in need to supporting vital military operations. In 1982, the RAF deployed its C-130Ks to the Falklands, the first time they had been used by the UK in a combat zone. During the course of the Falklands conflict, RAF C-130K crews logged more than 10,000 flying hours.

In 1998, the RAF had the distinction of being the first C-130J Super Hercules operator in the world, ushering in a new chapter in an already prolific Hercules history. And in 2016, we celebrated 50 years of continuing service and support to the RAF’s Hercules fleet. 

The RAF’s C-130J aircraft
In 2016 at RIAT, the RAF unveiled a commemorative paint scheme saluting the 50th anniversary of the delivery of the Royal Air Force’s first C-130 Hercules in 1966


The UK has also played an integral role on the F-35 since the very early days of the programme. Even before a final aircraft concept was chosen, British engineers and test pilots were making their mark on what would become the revolutionary capability of the F-35.

Under the desert sky in California, a British test pilot left onlookers awestruck as he took the X-35B prototype out for its first flight on June 23, 2001. Four months later, after witnessing the aircraft’s impressive performance, US and UK defence officials announced Lockheed Martin’s concept would go on to become the Joint Strike Fighter known as F-35.

The F-35 provides unrivalled capability. Its advanced stealth, sensor fusion, exceptional manoeuvrability, unmatched interoperability, and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities mean that the UK will have a tactical airpower advantage for decades to come.

The versatility of the F-35B to operate not only from land bases and remote locations, but also from the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers, will revolutionise the UK’s expeditionary combat power and have a transformative effect on the UK’s ability to defend itself.

The UK now has 14 F-35Bs, three of which are stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and being operated by 17(R) Sqn.

A further 11 are based at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in South Carolina where they are being put through their paces by pilots and maintainers from the UK’s Lightning Force alongside the USMC as part of a combined unit.

In 2018, as the RAF celebrates its centenary, the iconic 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron will reform as the first operational Lightning Squadron based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

In preparation, Lockheed Martin is working with BAE Systems and Balfour Beatty partners to build specially designed facilities at RAF Marham to support the fleet when it arrives. As well as logistics and maintenance facilities, the base will have an integrated training centre containing Lockheed Martin simulator technology to provide not only pilots but also ground crew with F-35 training.

In February 2018, the first of these buildings, the Lightning Operations Centre was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen, who is the Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Marham.

The F-35 not only provides a step change in capability for the UK Armed Forces, it is also giving a real boost to the UK economy.

Fifteen per cent by value of each of the more than 3,000 aircraft projected for the global marketplace is returned to the UK and to date, the F-35 programme has generated $13.55 billion in contracts. There are more than 500 British companies in the UK F-35 supply chain and the programme will support 20,000 jobs during the production phase. The UK’s involvement in the longer-term sustainment programme will return significant further value.  

A UK F-35 flies above a USMC F-35 over the UK in 2016
Her Majesty The Queen unveils a plaque at the Lightning Operations Centre at RAF Marham (Pic: Crown Copyright)
F-35 Production

Not Just Aircraft

Beyond aircraft, Lockheed Martin also delivers critical capability to the RAF including military flight training (through Ascent; a Joint Venture with Babcock), air surveillance radar, cyber and weapons capabilities.  

And as the importance of space and cyber capabilities grow, Lockheed Martin is working with the RAF to provide world leading and cost-effective capabilities to further enhance the RAF’s ability to continue to defend the UK.

RAF 100

As part of the RAF 100 celebrations, Lockheed Martin will be giving people the chance to learn more about the F-35 as our full-scale model will be touring the country at various events. You’ll be able to see it at:

-        RAF Cosford Air Show – 10 June 

-        Horse Guards Parade, London – 6-9 July 

-        Farnborough Air Show – 16-22 July 

-        Victoria Square, Birmingham - 25-27 August 

-        Glasgow Science Centre – 1-2 September

And at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford in July (https://www.airtattoo.com/), we’ll once again be sponsoring the TechnoZone where young people have the chance to learn more about our products, our history and build their own F-35 using specially made building blocks.