Queen visits main operating base of Britain's new stealth warplanes

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The Queen has visited what will be the home and main operating base of Britain's new multimillion-pound F-35B stealth fighter jets.

Giving the royal seal of approval to the state-of-the-art Lightning Operations Centre at RAF Marham - the Queen officially opened the facility and unveiled a plaque.

During her visit to the Norfolk base on Friday, the monarch met with personnel, the contractors who built the facility and representatives from Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "The royal opening of this operations hub for the F-35 brings us another step closer to these pioneering jets flying from their UK home later this year, and their take-off from the magnificent aircraft carrier which proudly bears Her Majesty's name.

"I'm delighted The Queen has seen what the future holds for the Royal Air Force, particularly as we celebrate a rich 100-year history of brave men and women protecting our skies."

Station commander Group Captain Ian "Cab" Townsend said it was "wonderful" to welcome the monarch to RAF Marham especially during the centenary year of the RAF.

Queen Visits RAF Marham
The Queen unveils a plaque during her visit to RAF Marham (Cpl Steve Buckley/PA)

More than £500 million has been invested in the new infrastructure at the Norfolk base ahead of the warplanes' arrival this summer.

The new centre will be the headquarters of the Lightning Force and is the first building to have been completed as part of an infrastructure overhaul.

A maintenance and finishing facility, which provides an eight-bay hangar for engineering maintenance purposes plus somewhere to paint the jets, has also been built.

And there is also an integrated training centre, which will house four full mission simulators and ground crew training facilities.

The UK is currently embarked on a £9.1 billion programme to buy 48, by 2025, of the F-35Bs, the world's most advanced fighter jet.

Britain has 14 in the United States being tested ahead of flight trials off the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year.

The F-35s will be based from RAF Marham and deployed on the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers - forming an integral part of the Carrier Strike Group.