617 Squadron

The UK's first F-35B Lightning squadron.

After me, the flood

On a roundel, a wall in fesse, fracted by three flashes of lightning in pile and issuant from the breach water proper - approved by King George VI in March 1944. The broken dam is indicative of the successful attack on the dams in May 1943.


  • Based at RAF Marham 
  • Adopted its name and badge after the famous Dams Raid in 1943
  • Previous aircraft flown include the Avro Lancaster, Lincoln and Vulcan; English Electric Canberra; and Panavia Tornado
  • Now flying the F-35B Lightning fifth-generation combat aircraft


1943 - Formed at RAF Scampton, specifically for an attack on dams in the Ruhr Valley using the Barnes Wallis-designed Upkeep 'bouncing bomb'. Flown on 16/17 May, the raid destroyed the Eder and Möhne dams. The unit returned to combat in July

1944 - Now flying from RAF Woodhall Spa, 617 Squadron began dropping the 12,000lb Tallboy and, later, 22,000lb Grand Slam bombs. As well as bombing, the unit supported the D-Day assault with Operation TAXABLE, a radar-spoofing mission. Between them, IX and 617 Squadrons, both employing Tallboys, sank the battleship Tirpitz in November

1946 - Toured India, before returning to the UK and re-equipping with Lincolns. A North America tour followed in 1947. The piston-engined bombers gave way to Canberra jets in 1952

1955 - After flying combat missions over Malaya, 617 Squadron returned to the UK and disbanded

1958 - Re-formed at RAF Scampton on the Vulcan B1, taking the Vulcan B2 from 1961. Introduced the Blue Steel stand-off missile into service in 1963, then switched to low-level missions from 1968. Disbanded in 1981

1982 - Stood up as a Tornado GR1 unit at RAF Marham, declaring operational capability on 16 May

1990 - Deployed to the Gulf, under Operation GRANBY, and fought in the campaign to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion in early 1991

1994 - Transferred to RAF Lossiemouth and the Tornado GR1B, operating in the anti-shipping role alongside 12 Squadron

2003 - Contributed to the RAF Tornado GR4 force deployed for Operation TELIC, flying missions against Iraqi targets from Kuwait. Flew the first operational Storm Shadow mission, on 21 March. The squadron continued rotating into theatre until 2009, when regular rotations to Afghanistan, under Operation HERRICK, began

2011 - 617 Squadron crews flew Storm Shadow attacks during Operation ELLAMY over Libya, while the unit also continued deploying to Afghanistan

2014 - Disbanded on 28 February, after returning from a final HERRICK deployment on 30 January. Began re-forming in 2016, in preparation to become the UK’s first frontline Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning unit

2018 - Four 617 Squadron Lightnings landed at RAF Marham, the unit’s new home

2019 - Lightning Dawn saw 617 Squadron deploy to RAF Akrotiri for Operation SHADER sorties and subsequent training alongside Israeli and Italian F-35s

2020 - In June, 617 Squadron embarked operational Lightnings aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time. In September, the unit returned to the ship, alongside visiting US Marine Corps F-35Bs, in preparation for the vessel’s Carrier Strike Group 21 first operational sailing in 2021

Battle honours

Fortress Europe 1943-1945*

The Dams*

Biscay Ports 1944*

France and Germany 1944-1945*

Normandy 1944*


Channel and North Sea 1944-1945*

German Ports 1945*

Gulf 1991

 Iraq 2003-2011

(Honours marked with an asterisk, may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard)


Please contact the home station Media Communications team for more information or to contact the Squadron

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