RAF Lakenheath welcomes first US Air Force F-35A fighter jets as 495th Fighter Squadron re-forms

The new squadron will consist of 24 F-35A Lightning II aircraft Credit: RAF Lakenheath

American F-35A fighter jets have begun to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, making it the first US Air Force base in Europe to receive the new generation of aircraft.

The base was chosen in 2015 to host the first F-35A squadron in Europe due to its close ties with the Royal Air Force, its infrastructure, and training opportunities, said the US Air Force.

The aircraft will belong to the 495th Fighter Squadron, which was nicknamed the “Valkyries” during a voting contest in 2020.

The new squadron will consist of 24 F-35A Lightning II aircraft, to be delivered in phases.

General Jeff Harrigian, a commander with the USAF, said: "Our coalition forces train and fight in the most dynamic theatre, requiring the most advanced platforms. 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.”

In Norse mythology, Valkyries were female figures who decided who lived or died in battle. The USAF said the name also linked to East Anglia's Viking and Norse history.

“[The name} ‘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.”

“The amount of support we received, and continue to receive, from the community both here and back home has been overwhelming and highly appreciated,” said Col Jason Camilletti, 48th Fighter Wing commander.

The 48th Fighter Wing has been based at RAF Lakenheath since 1960, and currently operates F-15 fighter planes.