The re-activated 495th Fighter Squadron, part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, will be called the “Valkyries” and operate the F-35A.
The 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakeheath, UK, has made it public the nickname selected for the 495th Fighter Squadron, the first U.S. Air Force overseas-based F-35A squadron. The unit had crowdsourced the name last year receiving some 700 different suggestions. In December, the 48 FW received thousands of votes from opinion polls, and it publicly announced that the 495th FS will be called the “Valkyries” on Feb. 16, 2021.
According to a Wing’s public release, the nickname was chosen over Archangels, Sabres, Sentinels, and Swordsmen. “In Norse mythology, Valkyries are female figures who choose those that will live, or die, in battle,” the 48th Wing statement says. “RAF Lakenheath is in the East of England, an area with extensive Viking and Norse history. Additionally, the 495th Fighter Squadron motto: “Mala Ipsa Nova” in Latin, means “Bad News Itself”. Both factors emphasize “Valkyries” as an extremely suitable nickname for the U.K.-based unit.”
“‘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, the incoming 495 FS commander. “I am honored to be the first commander of the initial U.S. Air Force overseas-based F-35A unit. Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace.”
Noteworthy, the 495th Tactical Fighter Squadron operated the General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark as part of the 48th Fighter Wing, at RAF Lakenheath when it was inactivated on Dec. 13, 1991.
The first F-35As are scheduled to be delivered to the squadron and arrive at their homebase in the UK in late 2021, making RAF Lakenheath the first U.S. F-35A squadron to be activated in Europe.
Back in April 2017, the base hosted the first overseas training deployment to Europe of the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Strike Fighter when F-35As of the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, from Hill Air Force Base, arrived at RAF Lakenheath as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.
The Pentagon officially announced a large reorganization of U.S. Air Force units across Europe in January 2015. As part of the consolidation plan, the DoD said that two squadrons of F-35s would be based at RAF Lakenheath, home of the 48th Fighter Wing equipped with F-15C and F-15E Strike Eagle jets.
Each of the squadrons will receive 24 F-35s, totalling 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 back then. “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.”
Also based in the UK, at RAF Marham, are (obviously) the two British F-35 squadrons: the 207 Squadron, or 207(OC) Squadron, is the first unit dedicated to F-35 pilot training outside of the United States, and the “Dambusters” of 617 Squadron (and they should be joined by the Fleet Air Arm’s 809 Naval Air Squadron by 2023). Both unit fly the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning. British aircraft, personnel, equipment and support infrastructure, dubbed “Lightning Force”, are pooled and jointly manned by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel.