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Norfolk-based F-35 Lightning fighter jets soar over Buckingham Palace

PUBLISHED: 16:25 10 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:34 10 July 2018

A trio of F-35B Lightning II aircraft of 617 Squadron taking part in the RAF100 flypast over London to mark the centenary of the RAF. Photo: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/PA Wire

A trio of F-35B Lightning II aircraft of 617 Squadron taking part in the RAF100 flypast over London to mark the centenary of the RAF. Photo: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/PA Wire

Britain’s cutting-edge stealth fighter jets thundered over East Anglia as they made their way to and from a special Royal flypast to celebrate the RAF’s 100th birthday.

An F-35 Lightning lands at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian BurtAn F-35 Lightning lands at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

For the first time since touching down at their new base at RAF Marham last month, three of the multi-million-pound F-35 warplanes featured in a huge flypast above the Mall and Buckingham Palace today.

Up to 100 aircraft took part in a flypast over London to mark 100 years of the Royal Air Force.

At just after 1pm, Puma and Chinook helicopters began the spectacle, followed by aircraft including a Lancaster, Spitfires, Hurricanes, the A400M Atlas, Tornados and the F-35 stealth fighter jets.

In their biggest ever formation, 22 Typhoon jets spelt out the number 100 in the sky - an added surprise for the royals, personnel and the throngs of public spectators who had packed out the streets to watch.

Wing Commander John Butcher is greeted on his arrival at RAF Marham as the F-35 touches down on Norfolk soil. Picture: Ian BurtWing Commander John Butcher is greeted on his arrival at RAF Marham as the F-35 touches down on Norfolk soil. Picture: Ian Burt

Drawing the spectacle to a close were the Red Arrows, who in traditional aerobatic style, streamed red, white and blue smoke down the length of the Mall.

Watched by the Queen and senior members of the royal family from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, the spectacle drew awe and applause from the crowd below.

Wing Cdr John Butcher, commander of Marham-based 617 Sqn, flew one of the F-35 jets during the spectacle and said for him personally it was “very important” for the jets to feature.

Speaking before the event, he said: “That will be the first that we will have flown it in a public environment since we landed back, so it is an exciting opportunity.”

The first F-35 B Lightning stealth aircraft piloted by Wing Commnder John Butcher touches down at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian BurtThe first F-35 B Lightning stealth aircraft piloted by Wing Commnder John Butcher touches down at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

Four of the supersonic jets, which had been based at US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, crossed the Atlantic last month.

They are now permanently based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, with another five of the jets expected to arrive in the UK by the end of July to the beginning of August.

The flypast was a centrepiece of events celebrating the RAF’s centenary, with lines of invited personnel given a prime viewing position directly outside the palace gates.

More than 2,200 people packed Westminster Abbey for the service, with dignitaries including Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attending.

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