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)

USAFE UK based Pave Hawks to relocate

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.

Source: USAFE
Featured image: A pair of 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters fly over Alaska on a training mission (Image © Master Sgt. Sean Mitchell / Alaska Air National Guard)

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)