RAF, RAAF reactivate squadron for F-35 reprogramming mission

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – The deep blacks, Royal blues and glimmering golds of dress uniforms were on display accompanied by a gunmetal-grey F-35A Lightning II as a backdrop during an old squadron’s reactivation ceremony April 15, 2024.

The Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force reactivated their former unit, No. 80 Squadron, in a reformation ceremony at Eglin.  The new unit, which also includes Royal Navy Sailors, was formerly known as the Australia Canada United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory.

Their mission is to provide mission data file programming for the Australian, Canadian, and United Kingdom F-35 variants.  Mission data is information across the electronic landscape that allows the aircraft and aircrew to sense, identify, locate, and counter threats in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The newly reformed squadron is one of many U.S. Air Force and international partners collaborating on the F-35 data mission at Eglin.

“Our success as a squadron isn’t possible without the unwavering support of the U.S. and the plethora of Eglin stakeholders, who will continue to support the squadron and its outstanding capability,” said Cdr. Chris Wilcox, No. 80 Squadron commander.

To mark this rare occasion, both country’s air force chiefs of staff attended the ceremony and inspected their personnel standing in three formations representing the RAF, RN and RAAF.

“Today marks a significant milestone as we come together to commemorate the reforming of not one, but two No. 80 Squadrons at Eglin,” Air Marshal Robert Chipman, RAAF Chief of Air Force.  “The decision to transition the Australia, Canada, and United Kingdom F-35 Reprogramming Laboratory into a squadron holds profound importance. It signifies that the people and the work they do is operationally relevant; it fosters unit identity and pride among our aviators.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, RAF Chief of the Air Staff, shared how significant the squadron’s mission is to the country’s air force mission and goals.

"Critical to our success in future air warfare will be the degree to which we can gain and maintain both air superiority and superiority across the electro-magnetic spectrum,” said Knighton “As we consider current vectors in the evolution of warfare, our expert coders and programmers, our digital specialists and data scientists will be just as important, or even more so, than our aircrew.”

For the RAF, the squadron’s name dates to 1917 and World War I.  The unit went inactive in 1969 before reforming this year.  The RAAF’s No. 80 Squadron began in 1943 during World War II and was deactivated in 1946.  The name is now active again 78 years later.

To conclude the ceremony the RAF and RAAF chiefs unveiled the new squadron crests to the crowd.  The crests are distinctive to their country’s service, but both contain the same motto emblazoned at the bottom – Strike True.

The Royal Canadian Air Force will join No. 80 Squadron in July 2024.