Commander Mark Sparrow handed over command of 617 Squadron ‘The Dambusters’ to Wing Commander David Tait in a small ceremony at RAF Marham yesterday. Earlier in the day Cdr Sparrow took to the air for his final flight in the F-35B Lightning, and was greeted on his return by the whole Squadron. Cdr Sparrow conducted a final briefing to the Squadron, before officially handing command to Wg Cdr Tait.
In April 2020 Cdr Sparrow made history as the first Royal Navy Officer to take command of 617 Squadron, the front line operational Squadron made up of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel operating the F-35B Lightning.
Cdr Sparrow said “Today is a day of mixed emotions as I hand over the command of 617 Squadron to Wg Cdr Dave Tait. Immense pride in the Squadron and all that we have achieved together over the last two years, but also sadness as I say goodbye to an amazing group of people that I have had the pleasure in Commanding as OC 617 Sqn. The last two years have been extremely challenging dealing with a global pandemic whilst deploying on Operation FORTIS which saw the Squadron away from their loved ones for over 7 months; it never failed to impress me how every member of the Squadron rose to that challenge and delivered everything that was asked of them proving that the Dambuster’s truly are world class. I look forward to working closely with 617 Squadron and the Combat Air Force in my next role as Commander Air Group as Carrier Strike continues to grow and develop as a capability.”
Wg Cdr David Tait is no stranger to ‘The Dambuster’s’ as he previously served with 617 Squadron flying the Tornado GR4 where he undertook multiple deployments in support of Operation TELIC in Iraq and Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan.
Wg Cdr Tait said “It is an honour to serve the aviators and sailors of 617 Squadron as we continue to fulfil our busy programme of operational and exercise activity. On a personal note, it is especially poignant to return to the Dambusters having completed my first frontline tour with the Squadron flying Tornado GR4, and to take command as we approach our 80th anniversary in 2023”.
Cdr Sparrow leaves us on promotion to Captain, and will become Commander Air Group, continuing to work closely with the Lightning Force over the next few years.