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Lockheed F-35A Lightning II 19-5473/LN USAFA U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 495th Fighter Squadron lands on the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, Dec. 15, 2021. The arrival of the 5th-generation aircraft at the Liberty Wing has been planned since 2015, marking its placement within the United Kingdom a critical component for training and combat readiness due to airspace and F-35 program partnership.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Koby I. Saunders)


RAF Lakenheath received its first delivery of F-35A Lightning II aircraft Dec. 15. This is the result of a force posture adjustment that has been six years in the making. Announced in 2015, the long-anticipated arrival of the F-35 marks RAF Lakenheath as the first base in United States Air Forces in Europe to receive the new, fifth-generation aircraft.

“Our coalition forces train and fight in the most dynamic theater, requiring the most advanced platforms,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander. “The Valkyries are leading our F-35 integration across Europe. We’ve come a long way, and now we’re extending our reach as a coalition force and what we will accomplish together.”

The aircraft will belong to the 495th Fighter Squadron, which was nicknamed the “Valkyries” during a voting contest in 2020. The new F-35 squadron will consist of 24 aircraft, delivered in a phased approach.

“‘Valkyries’ epitomizes the force’s move toward more inclusivity and equally represents the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s air superiority,” said Lt. Col. Ian McLaughlin, 495th FS commander. “Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace.”

RAF Lakenheath was selected in 2015 to host the first U.S. F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the RAF, existing infrastructure and combined training opportunities. The U.K. is a critical component in training and combat readiness for Air Forces in Europe due to its excellent airspace and F-35 program partnership.

“The amount of support we received, and continue to receive, from the community, both here and back home, has been overwhelming and highly appreciated,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Fighter Wing commander.

Release and photo USAF

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