The U.S. Air Force’s 495th Fighter Squadron based at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, is on track to soon receive its first deliveries of F-35A Lightning II aircraft, making the unit the first USAF F-35 squadron based in Europe.
Air Force officials announced last month 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 base was selected to host the first U.S. F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the Royal Air Force, existing infrastructure, and combined training opportunities,” the 48th Fighter Wing said in the announcement. “Additionally, the U.K. is a critical component in training and combat readiness for U.S. Air Forces in Europe due to its excellent airspace and F-35 program partnership.”
Delivery of the jet fighters is still on schedule, Maj. Keavy Rake, chief of public affairs, RAF Lakenheath, 48th Fighter Wing, told FLYING Monday. “We’re hoping some time within the coming weeks the first few will arrive.”
The initial delivery will consist of two to six aircraft, Rake said.
The 495th Fighter Squadron, which is nicknamed the “Valkyries,” is expected to eventually receive a total of 27 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.
“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,” Rake said.
“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.