RAF Lakenheath Has Become The First Base in Europe To Receive U.S. Air Force F-35s

One of first four F-35A jets landing at RAF Lakenheath on Dec. 15, 2021. (All images: Stewart Jack)

The first F-35A aircraft of the newly formed 495th Fighter Squadron have arrived in the UK.

Four F-35A aircraft departed from Fort Worth, Texas, arrived at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, on Dec. 15, 2021, marking the arrival of the first Europe-based USAF’s Lightning II 5th generation.

Flying as RETRO 31-34 and supported by BLUE81, a KC-135R #59-1495, and BLUE82, a KC-10A Extender #84-0189, the four aircraft (#19-5473, #19-5474, #19-5475 and #19-5476) approached RAF Lakenheath as a 4 ship at 13.50L before braking off and then all of them carrying out a missed approached before landing on RWY24.


As you can notice in the shots taken by The Aviationist‘s contributor Stewart Jack, the aircraft sport the 495th Fighter Squadron emblem on the air intake as well as the LN code, the shield of United States Air Forces in Europe as well as the motto “Mala Ipsa Nova” (Latin for “Bad News Itself”) on the twin tails. The 495th FS “Valkyries” is the first Europe-based U.S. F-35 squadron: it was re-activated on Oct. 1, 2021, at a specific, symbolic time, 8:49 and 50 second, that is to say exactly 30 years since the former 495th Tactical Fighter Squadron was redesignated as Fighter Squadron, shortly before being inactivated in 1991.

Close up showing the emblem on the air intake.
The tail section.

The 495th Fighter Squadron is scheduled to be fully mission capable in 2022 with a total of 27 aircraft and 60 personnel.

F-35 Lakenheath
RETRO 31-34 approaching the overhead break.

“Our coalition forces train and fight in the most dynamic theater, requiring the most advanced platforms,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa commander in a public release. “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.”

F-35 Lakenheath
On short final for landing.

“‘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, 495th Fighter Squadron commander. “Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace.”

Before they touched down at RAF Lakenheath, all the F-35s performed a go around.
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.