Lakenheath to Host First U.S. F-35 Squadrons in Europe


Royal Air Force Lakenheath will be the first European base to host U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons, the Pentagon announced.

The facility, located in the eastern part of England in the United Kingdom, will house two operational squadrons consisting of 24 aircraft apiece, for a total of 48 F-35As, beginning in 2020, according to a statement released Thursday.

(The news, however, was overtaken by a spat between the F-35 program office and The Daily Beast involving the schedule and effectiveness of the aircraft’s gun and targeting system.)

The presence of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made aircraft at Lakenheath “gives teeth to our ability to support collective defense of Europe and its partners,” Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of air forces in Europe and Africa, said in the release.

The move is part of a plan to close 15 American military installations in Europe, including Royal Air Force Mildenhall, home to more than 3,000 American service members and civilians, to save an estimated $500 million a year, according to the Defense Department

The U.S. will also build F-35 maintenance facilities in Italy and Turkey, the Pentagon recently announced.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program, estimated to cost nearly $400 billion for 2,443 aircraft. Keeping the planes flying over the next half-century is estimated to cost another $1 trillion in sustainment.

Eight countries have committed to fund the development of F-35, including the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Also, Israel, Japan and South Korea plan to buy production models of the aircraft.

The plane missed its planned international debut last year in the United Kingdom due to a temporary fleet-wide grounding following a June 23 engine fire.

Let’s hope the U.S.’s F-35A conventional models and U.K.’s F-35B jump-jet variants play nice together.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Taylor

    A maintenance facility in Turkey? They need to rethink Turkey as an “ally” in view of their ongoing transformation into an islamist state and an enemy of our best ally in the region, Israel. They should not be sold any F35s, in my opinion, much less have a maintenance facility. Our most advanced equipment should be reserved for secure allies! Sell some F16s to Turkey if they like.

    • rtsy

      Turkey is a secure ally, and becomes more secure if we buy them some new toys to protect themselves with.

      • Dfens

        It worked so well when we did that in Iran.

        • rtsy

          Turkey is far from being Iran.

    • ronaldo

      Sell them F-16’s ? Son, they MAKE F-16’s
      They’ve built them under license for years.

      Sheesh. This place never ceases to amaze with it’s strong opinions and weak understanding of foreign relations.

      • Paul

        How about Erdogan gov’t warming to Putin lately? Am I either a bit concerned or paranoid? -just how things can go south really fast nowadays.

    • blight_

      Giving Turkey the cold shoulder will only strain the relationship between Turkey and the United States. Granted the strong relationship between the US and the Iranian military did not protect the Shah, or prevent the Revolution…

    • t1oracle

      Don’t worry. Whoever relies F35’s in combat is doomed to lose air superiority anyway.

      • UK Grant

        Aye! Not only that, the suckers will lose their hard earned cash by the billions.

    • Jim

      As long as Obama & company is in office we will be stripped of all common sense and security. Still not a word about being hacked by the Chinese or the traitor Sgt. Burdhal, yet he is ramming a nuclear treaty down our throats with Iran. Abe Lincoln said we would NEVER be beat by an external enemy, but rather within. Guess who the traitor is within? Just check the White House! God help us!!!

  • 009

    Let’s hope it can also piss lead by then.

    • mark

      Jesus Christ is in charge he will stop every other nation that comes against Israel

      • jake

        Calm down, Thumper.

      • jake

        I wish they’d end this program and of found a way to redesign all our current assets to last the next half century. We could of seen new A-10, F-16, F/A-18 designs. Even incorporate the new technologies learned from the Comanche, F-22 and the F-35 programs into their redesigns. But this is what we get when big corporations buy one another out and thin out the market.

  • Lance

    Sad the pictured showed A F-16 and a F-35A. The old falcon carries more is faster and turns tighter. I wouldn’t call it a beef up to our NATO allies to send inferior planes to replace a more capable plane. JSF only has stealth over the Falcon, that wont mean much in deterrence against Russia/Belarus and other unstable CIS states in eastern Europe.

  • paamf

    Those gold plated pigs better hope they don’t ever have to face real fighter aircraft. Sukhoi and the Europeans must be chomping at the bit to face them in a top gun type competition.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    Wonder the feasibility of a medium sized aircraft (i.e. Herc 130 / similar) carrying a laser system able to take out the latest combat aircraft at line of sight / horizon easily…..especially if working with Sentry plane/smilar high atitude aircraft feeding detection/targeting information…

    Maybe can use a B-17/B-29 with said laser system or las sat (but cannot due to agreements not to militarize space)…ok i am getting really out of control…


  • oblatt22

    Good picture of the F-35 in its natural habitat - the ground.

    F-35 - Maintained to Italian and Turkish standards. Just the cherry on the top of the pile of shit that is the F-35 program.

    Here is a fun game - name a single decision in the whole program that actually increases the quality of the aircraft at the expense of Lockheed profits.

  • LTC Jon

    What happens to the F-15Cs and F-15Es that are at LN now? I would hate to think we would pull our only air superiority airframe out of Europe for the F-35…not to mention deep strike with the F-15E.

  • donbacon

    In other news, I will lose twenty pounds and be very rich in 2020, driving a Lamborghini I expect. In Lakenheath.

    Ooops, sorry, that has nothing to do with defense tech, but neither does repeating this PR release from the Pentagon regarding a system on which many components, including the engine, don’t work properly. But who cares about that? On to Lakenheath.

  • Dfens

    “The move is part of a plan to close 15 American military installations in Europe, including Royal Air Force Mildenhall, home to more than 3,000 American service members and civilians, to save an estimated $500 million a year.”

    That’s $500 million that will go straight to the defense contractors now. If only Lockheed can get you idiots to cancel the F-35 program so they can stop building airplanes and go on to developing the next crappy fighter jet, then they can get everything they’ve ever wanted. But you people will show them…

  • changey

    The “Daily Beast” is a left wing agitation website with little pure analytical credibility and no military credibility. Why do supposedly well informed websites, such as “defensetech” give them links? Giving them links on the F-35 is like giving The Onion links on its expertise with double integration of trigonometric functions.

  • oblatt22

    The F-35 is such a bug ridden aircraft which has narrowly escaped several times already. Part of the calculation must be to reduce the PR effect of the crashes that will inevitably come.

    Lockheed PR would much rather F-35s crash in England that at home where congressmen might start asking questions rather than just taking the cash.

  • hialpha

    This report is really stupid. Statement 1) US closing base. Statement 2) It’s ok because F-35 will be brought to another base in future.

    Whenever defensetech wants to report a story that lacks juice it adds in an F-35 line or picture, or and LCS picture or whatever, in order to drive up comments and readership.

    A really interesting piece would be how exactly this reshuffle of US forces in EUCOM will effect overall force disposition.

    I can go to CNN or somewhere else to get the news: US will withdraw forces from 15 bases in UK,” I come here to see some healthy debate and perhaps a smidgen of informed analysis by the author.

    Fail, bro.

  • paamf

    They could have keep producing and upgrading the F-22 and A-10 or built a single purpose aircraft that would have been a lot cheaper with more capabilities.
    It wasn’t that far back that the military was talking about using the F-22 as a control point for squads of fighter or ground attack drones. No matter what aircraft they build they will never be able to match the numbers of the Chinese, not with manned aircraft.
    Just checking the options especially since it appears we’re going to press the issue in Asia.

  • paamf

    Follow your own advice Dfen

  • Just some guy


  • Vaporhead

    This is amusing. We already have problems getting parts for this aircrafts motor at depot and field locations because all the parts are still in R&D. They are like: “Here’s a plane and engine, but we don’t got the parts for you to fix or upgrade to.”

  • T.A.Givens I - VET

    There are too many stupid people in various US states causing an imbalance in the voting public to elect politicians of value. This is why we have elected stupid, greedy political reps. Hence, that is why few sensible bills get passed in the US. The end result is we indirectly help the fat cats get fatter, we build expensive stupid planes that do very little, we not only put people out of work in the US, but around the world and let the logistical capability of a great nation (bridges and roads) crumble…

  • Jb615

    Just like Vietnam, Good flyers and equipment lost because of some ******* in Washington had a “new idea” to try.

  • paamf


  • Big Al

    F-35 flying Yugo. Piece of graft and pay offs !! Match it against an old F-4 Phantom, the Phantom will kick it s ass up and down the road. Would love to know who got paid off for this junk.