LONDON – Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35B Lightning jets and personnel from 617 Squadron have paid a visit to the Norwegian capital of Oslo, as part of Operation Achillean.
617 Squadron is currently deployed on HMS Queen Elizabeth which is leading the UK’s Carrier Strike Group presently located in Oslo.
Whilst alongside, the ship will host several defence engagement activities in Norway as part of Operation Achillean. Norway is an important strategic ally both bilaterally and within NATO for the UK.
Operation Achillean is a proof of concept deployment to demonstrate NATO’s 5th generation maritime strike capability. The air fleet is comprised of F-35 jets supported by Merlin, and Wildcat helicopters.
All elements of Operation Achillean complement NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force activity, as the UK underscores its commitment to safeguarding European security.
In addition to the personnel from 617 Squadron, other RAF personnel have also been embarked. Flight Lieutenant Pollard is currently serving as the Carrier Strike Group Air Battle Manager.
Speaking on the Oslo deployment, Flight Lieutenant Pollard said: “This was my first time in a truly tri-service environment, so it has been a period of new experiences and learning.”
“As an Air Battle Manager, it is my responsibility to coordinate activity in the airspace around the Task Group, including flying Royal Marines ashore, naval gunfire from our frigates and destroyers, and F-35B sorties from HMS Queen Elizabeth.”
“To do all this safely and effectively takes a lot of teamwork, and the Royal Navy personnel on board have certainly made me feel a part of that very close-knit team.”
“For me, the first time I looked out from the aft island and saw the Task Group assembled around HMS Queen Elizabeth, with F-35s taking off from the deck and Merlins patrolling ahead of us, that was the moment I realised I was part of something special.”
The HMS Queen Elizabeth, Carrier Strike Group, is being commanded by Commodore Angus Essenhigh OBE Royal Navy and his staff who are embarked aboard the aircraft carrier.
The deployment builds on vital UK Defence activity in the High North, deepening co-operation between, British and Norwegian air assets especially centred on RAF and Norwegian P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft and F-35 fighters.
About 617 Squadron
617 Squadron was originally based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and is currently based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.
Commonly known as “The Dambusters”, the iconic Squadron is fondly remembered for its actions during Operation Chastise in the Second World War, when it’s low flying Avro Lancasters delivered Barnes Wallis’ revolutionary bouncing bomb against three dams in the German Ruhr Valley.
In the early 21st century it operated the Panavia Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role until being disbanded on 28 March 2014.
617 Squadron reformed on 18 April 2018, and was equipped at RAF Marham in June 2018 with the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning, becoming the first squadron to be based in the UK with this advanced V/STOL type.
The unit is composed of both RAF and Royal Navy personnel, and operates from the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.