Tag Archives: Lakenheath

Raptors visit Europe again, to stay until May

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.

U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
One of the F-22s is seen here with a Lakenheath-based F-15E. (Image © US Air Force / Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Security package

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.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A Raptor four-ship. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

USMC F-18 Hornet down in the UK

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.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A USMC F-18 Hornet, belonging to VMFA-232. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

‘F-22 Raptor jets to arrive in Germany on 28 August’


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.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An F-22 Raptor refuels  during a training mission. (Image © Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards / USAF)

US Air Force F-35s to Europe in 2020, plus more changes

The US Air Force is planning to station two Lockheed Martin F-35 squadrons at RAF Lakenheath from 2020 on, according to statements released on Thursday 8 January. Furthermore, nearby Mildenhall airbase is to cease operations, with the local special operations C-130 Hercules aircraft and CV-22 Osprey tilt rotors moving to Germany.

At Lakenheath, the F-35s – 48 in number – are bound to replace two squadrons of Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles, plus one squadron operating Boeing F-15C/D Eagles. The base houses the only remaining US strike aircraft in the United Kingdom. With the first F-15E Strike Eagle decommissioned last December, it’s no big surprise that the F-35 is being send to the UK as its replacement.

The 17th Luke Air Force Base F-35A Lightning II jet arrived at Luke AFB on 18 December 2014. The jet accompanied the first Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning II to arrive here. (Image © Staff Sgt. Staci Miller / USAF)
This will be the sight at Lakenheath from 2020 on. (Image © Staff Sgt. Staci Miller / USAF)

Mildenhall has been a US Air Force tanker, transport and special operations hub for decades, and is currently home to 3,200 US personnel. The based CV-22 Ospreys and C-130s will head to Spangdahlem airbase in Germany, currently home to a squadron of US Air Force F-16s. For the Mildenhall based KC-135 tankers, Ramstein airbase in Germany seems the most likely destination.

For intelligence purposes, Mildenhall always housed some forward deployed RC-135 spying aircraft. Those operations will move to another airbase within the UK. A candidate is Fairford, where rumours about increased future activity were already going round.

The move to Spangdahlem of a substantial number of aircraft comes as a bit of a surprise. In the not-too-distant past, the US Air Force had some bad experiences with housing aircraft of different types and roles at the same airbase, and the question is how Spangdahlem will cope with the current F-16s and the additional slow moving C-130s and CV-22s, not to mentioned the C-17 transporters that frequently visit the base.

However, the decision may also be a sign of more things to come, such as the transfer of Spangdahlem’s F-16s further east or south. Poland is seen as a possible option. This would fit into a larger strategical picture, and would create a lot of room at Spangdahlem for its new inhabitants to move around in.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

A Mildenhall based KC-135R Stratotanker.  (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Mildenhall based KC-135R Stratotanker. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A knife edge pass by a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. Sometimes, life is simple. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Lakenheath based  F-15E in max ‘fuel to noise’ mode. The F-35 will replace the F-15E at Lakenheath from 2020 on. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
The Air Force's first operational CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft hovers upon arrival at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Monday, March 20, 2006. (Staff Sgt. Markus Maier © USAF)
CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft will move from Mildenhall, UK, to Spangdahlem, Germany. (Staff Sgt. Markus Maier © USAF)

USAF praying to keep Eagles in Europe

A Lakenheath based F-15C Eagle landing at Leeuwarden AB, the Netherlands, in 2010 (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Lakenheath based F-15C Eagle landing at Leeuwarden AB, the Netherlands, in 2010 (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The US Air Force top generals are silently praying to be able to keep their F-15C Eagle air-superiority fighters longer in Europe than planned. Reason: the Russian aggression towards Ukraine, the Baltic states, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.

According to the Fiscal Year 2015 plans, the USAF will no longer have the money to keep its 21 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15Cs with the 493rd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. But with an additional billion dollars as a stop-gap for at least a year those and some of the other 50+ Eagles due to be retired, might fly on into at least the year 2016. By then the Air Force generals hope that the Russian Bear has relaxed a bit.

The news coming out of the USAF HQ still is worrisome, because it will take quite some many years to have additional fire power available with the upcoming F-35 stealthy fighters. Scrapping a bunch of fighters or an entire unit can be done in a month – or even days – but building up a combat ready contingency takes a decade. Just the wish of keeping the 21 Eagles close to the possible battlefront in Europe, shows how shaky unstable the European NATO defences are according to the US Air Force top men and women.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

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A pair of F-15Cs train an interception with a Lithuanian Air Force L-39 Albatros during an earlier deployment in 2008 (Image © USAF)
A pair of F-15Cs train an interception with a Lithuanian Air Force L-39 Albatros during an earlier deployment in 2008 (Image © USAF)