US Air Force Squadron Based in UK Receives First F-35As

The aircraft delivery to Lakenheath, England, makes the 495th Fighter Squadron the first USAF F-35A squadron based in Europe.

The Air Force, along with the Navy and Marine Corps, announced last month it had grounded the fighters out of an ”abundance of caution.” [Courtesy: USAF]

The U.S. Air Force’s 495th Fighter Squadron based at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, has received its first delivery of F-35A Lightning II aircraft, the service announced. The delivery makes the unit the first USAF F-35 squadron based in Europe.

Air Force officials announced in October that the 48th Fighter Wing had reactivated the 495th Fighter Squadron as the first U.S. Air Forces in Europe F-35A squadron, and that the first aircraft were expected to arrive later in the year.

““The Valkyries are leading our F-35 integration across Europe.” ”

Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander

The delivery was made December 15.

“Our coalition forces train and fight in the most dynamic theater, requiring the most advanced platforms,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander, said in a statement. “The Valkyries are leading our F-35 integration across Europe.” 

The 495th Fighter Squadron, which is nicknamed the “Valkyries,” is expected to eventually receive a total of 24 aircraft and consist of 60 personnel.

The F-35A, which will replace USAF’s F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II, is the service’s latest fifth-generation jet fighter aircraft.

USAF selected RAF Lakenheath to host the first F-35A squadron in Europe due to the existing infrastructure, its relationship with the Royal Air Force, and opportunities for combined training, the 48th Fighter Wing said.

“It postures us for adversary deterrence, particularly in the European Command theater. It’s a fifth-generation platform, so that really complements well some of the other strike and fighter packages that we have available,” Maj. Keavy Rake, chief of public affairs, RAF Lakenheath, 48th Fighter Wing, told FLYING last month. 

“Many of our NATO allies—our European partners—have F-35s, but we will be the first U.S. base and U.S. fighter wing to receive them,” she said.

International F-35 program partners include the U.S., United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark, and Canada, according to Lockheed Martin. Militaries in Israel, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Belgium, and Singapore are also procuring the aircraft.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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