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USAF F-35s arrive at RAF Lakenheath

The first US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs) to be permanently based overseas arrived at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath in the UK on 15 December.

Four aircraft from the 495th ‘Valkyries' Squadron arrived at the unit's new home station for operations some two months after being stood up in October.

The remainder of the squadron is set to arrive in the UK over the coming days and weeks. As previously announced by the USAF, a second squadron at RAF Lakenheath will be announced in due course.

The standing up of the first USAF F-35A unit at RAF Lakenheath was due to happen in 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once fully operational with the 48th Fighter Wing, the F-35As will replace the Boeing F-15C Eagles and augment the Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles at the station.

Having declared initial operational capability (IOC) for its conventional take-off and landing (CTOL)-variant F-35A in August 2016, the USAF is now ramping up its aircraft numbers and basing locations. The USAF has a programme of record of 1,763 F-35As over the life of the programme, of which approximately 300 have been delivered to date.

As noted by Janes World Air Forces, the type is operated by the 315th and 134th Fighter Squadrons at Burlington Air National Guard Base; the 34th, 421st, and 4th Fighter Squadrons at Hill Air Force Base; the 16th Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base; the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base; the 61st, 62nd, 63rd, and 69th Fighter Squadrons at Luke Air Force Base; the 466th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base; as well as the 355th and 356th Fighter Squadrons at Eielson Air Force Base.

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