Air Commodore Harv Smyth places the golden bolt. Picture: Supplied.

Preparations are well under way at RAF Marham ready for the arrival the new Lightning aircraft in 2018.

Air Commodore Harv Smyth, the Lightning Force Commander, put the final bolt in the steel structure of the new national operating centre in a special ceremony last week.

Construction of the new centre is just one of the preparations being made under  project ANVIL.

In the coming months, the £20m project will deliver the infrastructure required to support F-35B Lightning aircraft at the base.

It includes new management, maintenance, training and operations facilities, upgrades to utilities and services, and refurbishment of 90 per cent of the airfield operating surfaces.

Work began in April and has seen the demolition of one of the main hangars and squadron buildings on the south side of the airfield.

Once completed, the national operating centre will provide office space for more than 100 personnel who will be involved in the overall running and sustainment of the UK Lightning Force.

The final steel bolt was sprayed gold and added to the structure during a contractors’ golden bolt ceremony, derived from naval folklore which suggests every new ship built contained a single commemorative golden rivet.

Air Commodore Smyth said: “This ceremony represents RAF Marham moving another step closer towards the stand-up of our Lightning Force.

“The Lightning infrastructure redevelopment programme at Marham is a major undertaking, involving people from across defence and industry.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my personal thanks to everyone involved for their tireless commitment to make this programme a success.”

Last Friday’s ceremony was attended by RAF personnel, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, the Lightning basing team and the Lightning project team.

Group Captain Rich Davies, the RAF Marham Station Commander, added: “It is great to see the infrastructure build take shape across the station.

“Marking this first milestone really brings it home that it will not be long until we welcome 617 Squadron back to the UK and see the dawning of a new era at RAF Marham.”

The stealth fighters F-35 Lightning Force will replace the current Tornado squadrons.