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US Air Force’s first Europe-based F-35s arrive in England

First USAF F-35A in England
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 495th Fighter Squadron lands on the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, Dec. 15, 2021. Photo: US Air Force

The first US Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft to be based in Europe have arrived at their new home in Suffolk, England, at Royal Air Force base Lakenheath.

The first of the planned 27 F-35As landed in England on December 15, as a result of a force posture adjustment that has been six years in the making.

RAF Lakenheath was selected in 2015 to host the first US F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the RAF, existing infrastructure, and combined training opportunities. The UK is a critical component in training and combat readiness for Air Forces in Europe due to its excellent airspace and F-35 program partnership.

“Our coalition forces train and fight in the most dynamic theater, requiring the most advanced platforms,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, US Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa commander. “The Valkyries are leading our F-35 integration across Europe. We’ve come a long way, and now we’re extending our reach as a coalition force and what we will accomplish together.”

The 495th Fighter Squadron that will operate the aircraft at RAF Lakenheath was reactivated in October this year and was given the nickname Valkyries.

“Valkyries epitomizes the force’s move toward more inclusivity and equally represents the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s air superiority,” said Lt. Col. Ian McLaughlin, 495 FS commander. “Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace.”

Valkyries as a name for the squadron was first revealed in February this year by the service. In Norse mythology, Valkyries are female figures who choose those that will live or die in battle. RAF Lakenheath is in the east of the United Kingdom, an area with extensive Viking and Norse history. Additionally, the 495th FS motto, “Mala Ipsa Nova,” in Latin, means “Bad News Itself.”

The new F-35 squadron will consist of roughly 60 personnel and 27 aircraft, which will be delivered in a phased approach.