Royal Air Force Lakenheath Opens First F-35A Lighting II Support Facility
Royal Air Force Lakenheath Opens First F-35A Lighting II Support Facility

Royal Air Force Lakenheath Opens First F-35A Lighting II Support Facility

The 495th Fighter Squadron held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the first F-35A Lighting II support facility in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, March 17, 2022. The new facility boasts 16 maintenance bays covering 15,660 square-feet, while housing 240 support equipment assets used for maintenance and inspection. Additional commodities include an exhaust ventilation system, allowing for the operation of equipment inside. As well as an indoor heated wash-rack with drive-through capabilities. With new advanced technology and ample space for EMS operations, this state-of-the-art facility will help bolster the Liberty Wing’s mission of providing worldwide responsive combat airpower and support.

“This facility, having the capabilities that it does, allows us to keep our equipment functional. This is going to expand the EMS mission and will allow us to facilitate far more maintenance, at a faster rate,” said Tech. Sgt. Todd Spencer, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, F-35 support section chief.

“As we transition into fifth-generation fighter support, we are cementing our place in the history books with the opening of this facility. It will serve as the AGE flight’s main operating center for the F-35 support program while also providing advancement of the current F-15 legacy mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Henry, Aerospace Ground Equipment inspection non-commissioned officer in-charge.

48th Fighter Wing senior leaders participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the first F-35A Lightning II support facility at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 17, 2022. The facility consists of 16 maintenance bays with garage doors and an exhaust ventilation system, to allow for the operation of equipment inside.

The 495th Fighter Squadron (495th FS), nicknamed the Valkyries, is part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom. On 15 September 2020, it was announced that the 495th Fighter Squadron will be reactivated as part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath as the wing’s first F-35A unit. The first aircraft are scheduled to arrive in late 2021. Having been reactivated on 1 October 2021, it became the first overseas United States Air Force squadron to operate the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II on 15 December 2021. The unit had previously operated the General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark at RAF Lakenheath between 1977 and 1991. The 495th FS was reactivated on 1 October 2021. The new squadron will consist of 27 aircraft and roughly 60 personnel.

Royal Air Force Lakenheath or RAF Lakenheath is a Royal Air Force station near the village of Lakenheath in Suffolk, England, UK, 4.7 miles (7.6 km) north-east of Mildenhall and 8.3 miles (13.4 km) west of Thetford. The base also sits close to Brandon. Despite being an RAF station, Lakenheath currently only hosts United States Air Force units and personnel. The host wing is the 48th Fighter Wing (48 FW), also known as the Liberty Wing, assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA). In January 2015, the US Department of Defense announced that from 2020, Lakenheath would become home to 54 of the US Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role fighters. The wing operates the F-15C/D Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle and F-35A Lightning II.

Members from the 48th Fighter Wing gather to celebrate the opening of the first F-35A Lightning II support facility at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 17, 2022. The facility will serve as the Aerospace Ground Equipment flight’s main operating center for the F-35 support program while also advancing the current F-15 legacy mission.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olivia Gibson)