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USAF starts construction of permanent F-35 base in Europe

The US Air Force (USAF) and the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Defence Infrastructure Organisation broke ground during a ceremony on new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II infrastructure at RAF Lakenheath on 15 July.

The Suffolk installation should be ready to receive the first USAF F-35A Lightning II aircraft in late 2021. The $196 million infrastructure projects will be built by Kier and VolkerFitzpatrick construction groups, and will include a flight simulator facility, a maintenance unit, new hangars and storage facilities to accommodate the new squadrons.

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Ground breaking ceremony for F-35A Lightning II installations at RAF Lakenheath

USAF

“This ceremony is an exciting milestone for the (USAF’s 48th Fighter Wing) as we prepare this installation to welcome two squadrons of F-35A Lightning II aircraft and supporting personnel,” says Colonel William Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing. “Breaking ground on this project takes us one step closer to becoming a more lethal and ready force as US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s premier combat wing.”

RAF Lakenheath is the largest USAF-operated base in the UK and the only Boeing F-15 fighter wing within US Air Forces in Europe. The fighter wing consists of more than 4,500 active-duty military members, plus more than 1,000 British and US civilians.

Work to revamp RAF Lakenheath is the first part of a wider programme to support USAF operations in the UK, with more than $1 billion expected to be invested in the country over the next seven to 10 years, says the MoD.

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