UPDATED 15 April | The US Department of Defense on Friday announced it is sending a small number of US Air Force F-35s to Europe ‘as part of a long-planned training deployment’. The jets are to arrive this weekend and will most likely head to Lakenheath airbase in the UK, with Spangdahlem airbase in Germany as a secondary option.
Update 15 april | Six F-35s arrived at Lakenheath in the UK
at 1:45 pm local time, supported by two KC-135 tankers. Video of their arrival is below.
The F-35s – indications are eight jets are involved – will be part of the US Air Force’s 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. In August 2016, the wing was the first to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on the new jet. A deployment to Europe was mentioned on several occasions before, but the Pentagon never said when this would actually happen.
In a surprise move and repeating last year’s visit to Germany, US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors are seen in European skies again. Four jets arrived at Lakenheath airbase in the UK in the afternoon of Monday 11 April. The jets are here to conduct training with other Europe-based aircraft, said the US Air Force in a statement.
The advanced jets are deployed from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. They will continue training until May. In 2015, the first official deployment to Europe took place as four aircraft flew to Spangdahlem in Germany. They remained there for four weeks of flying in the European theater, venturing close to Russia while doing so.
The arrival of the Raptors in the UK comes as a surprise. Upon landing, their visit was first linked with a planned visit of F-22s later this month in France. On 20 April, the US Air Force’s most potent fighter aircraft is scheduled to participate in the 80th anniversary of French Air Force Escadron de Chasse (EC) 2/4, flying Mirages at Istres-Le Tubé airbase in southern France. It remains unclear of the aircraft expected in France, are the same jets now deployed to the UK.
The US last week also deployed F-15 Eagles to Europe. They take part in exercise Frisian Flag in the Netherlands, about which an inside report will appear here at Airheadsfly.com very soon. The F-15s will stay in Europe for six months as part of a Theater Security Package.
The F-22 however is a seldom seen sight in Europe. Raptors have on rare occasions used the UK and Spain as stop overs to destinations elsewhere.
The United States Air Force (USAF) announced today, 6 November, that the 56th and 57th Rescue Squadrons from RAF Lakenheath, UK are relocating to Aviano Air Base, Italy starting in 2017.
These squadrons of aircraft, aircrew, Guardian Angel Weapons Systems and support personnel will relocate to Aviano Air Base starting in fiscal year 2017. This includes five HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and approximately 350 personnel in an effort to establish an enduring Personnel Recovery location within Europe.
“This relocation of our rescue airmen places them in a more strategic location to respond across Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia,” said Gen. Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “We always take a serious, pragmatic look at how we can most effectively meet our commitments and guarantee the shared security of the United States and our allies and partners.”
The move is expected to take two to three years to complete.
During the European Infrastructure Consolidation review, programmers found excess capacity at Aviano. Part of the additional space was designated for the 56th and 57th RQSs, who deploy around the world to recover personnel from the most difficult and hostile conditions imaginable.
Construction decisions and transition milestones for the relocation will take place over the next several years.
A United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-18 Hornet crashed in the United Kingdom near Lakenheath air force base on Wednesday 21 October, authorities confirmed. The pilot was killed in the crash. Along with a number of other Hornets, the aircraft had just departed Lakenheath at the start of a trans atlantic flight back to the US.
The aircraft came down at 10.30 hrs local time on uninhabited farmland six miles northwest of Lakenheath. The cause is under investigation. According to US officials, it is unknown if the pilot ejected.
The Hornet belonged to Marine Attack Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 232 ‘Red devils’ and was heading home to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA. The aircraft had arrived at Lakenheath from Bahrain the day before. Following the crash, five more Hornets diverted to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
Lakenheath is used as a transit airfield by US forces every once in a while. The base is home to US Air Force F-15s.
In what can be considered a fact after a remark by US air force secretary Deborah James in the Pentagon, US F-22 Raptor fighter jets are preparing to deploy to Europe. The move is aimed at showing Russia that the US is concerned about Moscow’s increased military activities over the last few years, especially those in Ukraine. The arrivel is planned for Friday 28 August, flying directly from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
No time, date or specific destination were mentioned for the F-22, the aircraft that saw its combat debut only last year during the start of operations against IS over Syria. The state-of the-art Raptor did deploy to Japan a few times already as a show of force to North Korea.
If the F-22s indeed fly to Europe, likely hosts are RAF Lakenheath in the UK or Spangdahlem airbase in Germany. The latter hosted a batch of US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft earlier this year.