A KC-135 Stratotanker takes off Nov. 12, 2014 on RAF Mildenhall, England. Three tankers left RAF Mildenhall airspace together in a three-ship takeoff. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall/Released)
The U.S. Air Force is shutting down operations at three Royal Air Force bases in England as part of an effort to downsize infrastructure across the European theater, the Defense Department announced Thursday.
A United Kingdom base home to a major refueling wing with 3,200 U.S. personnel in Europe will close as part of an effort to downsize infrastructure across the European theater.
Forces from RAF Mildenhall — which provides aerial refueling to U.S. and allied aircraft over three continents and is also home to the 352nd Special Operations Group — will relocate realign its mission to bases in Germany, as well as RAF Lakenheath, the Defense Department said. The base has 3,900 personnel. announced Thursday.
In addition to Mildenhall, USAF operations at RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth will close and move missions to RAF Croughton.
The base closures as well as 14 other installation consolidations come as a result of the European Infrastructure Consolidation review, which will save $500 million annually, according to a Defense Department release.
Mildenhall will move 15 KC-135 aircraft and approximately 700 associated personnel to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, USAFE-AFAFRICA spokeswoman Capt. Sybil Taunton, spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said in an email to Air Force Times.
The 352nd Special Operations Group, including CV-22 and MC-130 aircraft and associated personnel, will move to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Taunton said.
"The U.K. remains an essential location for forward-based and ready forces," Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said in a release. "Our close relationship with the U.K. government and integrated missions with U.K. forces remain integral to USAFE's ability to execute successful missions in support of our NATO Allies."
Headquarters USAFE-UK will move from Mildenhall to RAF Lakenheath, and divesting 3,200 people from Mildenhall will be offset by the addition of 1,200 personnel at Lakenheath, the release said.
However, while there will be no difference in operational capabilities, tThe divestment is also projected to eliminate reduce approximately 1,300 military, civilian and local national positions, USAFE U.S. Air Forces Europe said.
Roughly 2,600 personnel are projected to be relocated as a result of the consolidations to other locations in the United Kingdom as well as to Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in Germany.
The Air Force estimates it will save $125 million annually, primarily in infrastructure maintenance costs and facility upgrades, USAFE said.
The Defense Department aims to realign missions from the consolidation across U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa within seven years.