The first 4 of 27 US F-35As have arrived in the UK, as part of a force posture adjustment that will squadrons of the aircraft stationed in Europe.
I guess even military aircraft need a holiday break, although why they’d choose England at this time of year is a mystery to me. It could be because the RAF has very close ties with the USAF, as well as having existing infrastructure available to facilitate the craft at their new holiday home, RAF Lakenheath. It could also be that the combined training opportunities available from the RAF serve as a critical component in enabling craft, and their pilots from the states, to become combat-ready for missions in Europe. Actually, now that I read that again, the UK seems like an ideal holiday destination for these military jets. The first squadron of F-35As arrived on the 15th of this month, owing to a programme that has been roughly six years in the making. This programme seeks to integrate the fifth-generation stealth fighter into air forces across Europe, giving them increased air superiority when it comes to combat missions. “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,” remarked States General Jeff Harrigian of the US Forces in Europe. Who are these Valkyries he mentions? They’re a fighter squadron (the 495th to be precise) who are to operate the craft at their new home. The name – taken from Norse mythology – is very fitting for the location, given that the RAF base is in the East of England, an area rich in Viking history. “Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace,” says Lt. Col. Ian McLaughlin.
Thems fightin’ words! It’s no coincidence that this programme has begun to pick up speed now. With the situation in the Crimea rapidly heading towards potential armed conflict, the US amongst other European allies have threatened repercussions if Russia launches an invasion. To prepare pilots for potential conflict, Lakenheath has been refurbished with new facilities, including new hangars and a flight-sim station as well as a maintenance unit. This is all in preparation for the continued expansion of a ‘Joint Strike Fighter’ community across all Europe and the US. What this community seeks to do is streamline synergy between multiple different strike aircraft, from a variety of different nations across the EU. This would bring a huge boost to the efficiency and effectiveness of international missions and enable a highly effective air superiority network to be constructed across Europe and the Atlantic. With plans to have F-35s based in Italy, Belgium and Poland, amongst other countries by the end of the decade, a cohesive Joint Strike Community is rapidly taking form across Europe. This will prove to be an essential formation if a potential conflict with Russia materialises (but let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that!)