UK base selected to host first U.S. F-35 jets in Europe

RAF Lakenheath was selected as the first base to host USAFE F-35s.

The Pentagon has announced a large reorganization of U.S. Air Force units across Europe on Jan. 8.

As a consequence of the consolidation plan, 15 installations in the Old Continent will be closed: among them RAF Mildenhall, one of the busiest airfield in the UK, whose tankers and special operations planes will be moved to Germany. RC-135 Rivet Joint jets currently based there will remain in the UK.

Then, the Pentagon has plans to base two squadrons of F-35s at RAF Lakenheath: the UK base, home of the 48th Fighter Wing equipped with F-15C and F-15E Strike Eagle jets, will be the first U.S. Air Force in Europe installation to host a unit flying the 5th Generation Joint Strike Fighter.

Each of the squadrons will receive 24 F-35s, totaling 48 aircraft assigned to RAF Lakenheath once full mission capability is achieved.

“Lakenheath is the perfect base for the perfect weapon system in the perfect country,” said Col. Robert Novotny, 48th Fighter Wing commander in press release published on the Air Force website. “From the beginning, the United States and the United Kingdom have been side-by-side on F-35 program development. This is about continuing to work together with our allies and partners to ensure a secure future for Europe.”

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Can anyone explain why the US Taxpayer must pay for military bases and planes in Europe?

    • so we can have mutual cooperation when the time comes….unless we forget what happens when we let Europeans to them selves…russia is back btw.

      • You use we three times in your sentences. If I don’t want to be a part of that then I’m not the we, I’m just someone that you’re stealing from to use my money for violence I don’t want or that may not come in my lifetime.

  2. Will the USAF be supplying ear-plugs to the residents of Lakenheath, with what is a very loud and extremely noisy aircraft?

  3. If the USAF can keep them airworthy, I suppose that we will see some good video in the months and years to come from tthe Mach Loop.

  4. Does this now mean the UK can reduce its future defence budget by billions of pounds, as the U.S. permanent presence of 48 USAF F-35’s means 48 less aircraft needed to be procured by the RAF to do the same job? (i.e multi-role fighters)

    • Sadly it seems so. The British government seems to be bandaging any bleed, no matter the size, with cuts to the armed forces. And that’s sad to see, coming from an outsider.

        • Are you kidding? You Brit’s have slashed your defense program a hundred different ways in the past ten to fifteen years…

            • At the end of the day, the F-35 will be fine. Will it still have been a disgustingly bloated project? Absolutely. Will it be the lame duck every idiot that knows nothing about the project thinks it will be? No, absolutely not. The UK with the F-35 and it’s new carriers will be an extremely potent asset.

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