The US Airforce (USAF) has planned to permanently deploy the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets in Europe to counter Russia’s military assertiveness. In the new development, the first fighter military aircraft to be permanently based in Europe have arrived in the UK, with a party of four F-35As touching down at their new home base at RAF Lakenheath in southeastern England on Wednesday, as per Sputnik.
This comes as USAF is planning to permanently station two squadrons that will consist of 48 fighter jets at the Suffolk base, alongside existing Boeing F-15 fighters.
The facility has recently undergone upgrades and now boasts an additional flight simulator facility, a new maintenance unit, new hangars, and storage facilities. In 2015, the UK’s Ministry of Defence had allocated close to £160 million ($218 million) for these up-gradations at the base.
“The Valkyries [495th Fighter Squadron’s nickname] 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,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of Allied Air Command, reportedly stressed, speaking to the United States reporters about the deployment.
A ‘truly important step’
Commander of US Air Forces in Europe General Jeffrey Harrigian had earlier said at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbour, Maryland that the United States Air Force was planning to leverage its capability, “particularly with many of our partners that already have the F-35 in the theatre.”