The Air Force activated its first permanent, Europe-based F-35A Squadron on Friday at the Royal Air Force’s Lakenheath base in England, according to an announcement from the 48th Fighter Wing.
The Air Force estimates the squadron will include around 60 personnel and 27 aircraft. The first F-35A is scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath later this year. The squadron was previously deactivated in 1991.
“There has been a great deal of work done to get us this far, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done prior to getting jets this winter,” said the squadron’s new commander, Lt. Col. Ian D. McLaughlin in a press release. “The 495th has a proud history and we’re excited to take the guidon forward to start building the foundation for first USAF F-35As stationed in Europe.”
The Air Force cited RAF Lakenheath’s infrastructure, airspace, and the existing partnership between the U.S. and the United Kingdom as prime motivators for the decision to host the squadron at the base. RAF Lakenheath currently serves as the Air Force’s only F-15 fighter wing in Europe, and is the largest U.S. Air Force-operated base in England. It’s located about 70 miles northeast of London.
The 495th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the “Valkyries” was reactivated on the 30th anniversary of its original designation as a fighter squadron.