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US Air Force base in Europe receives first F-35A fighter jets

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 495th Fighter Squadron lands on the flightline at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. (Photo by the US Air Force)

The US Air Force (USAF) has announced that its base at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath in Britain has received the first delivery of F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

According to a press statement released by the service on Wednesday, the planes landed at Lakenheath, located about seventy miles northeast of London, on December 15, making it the first base of the USAF in Europe to receive the high-performance, multi-role fighter jets.  

The fifth-generation fighter jets at the base are the first of 24 aircraft due to be delivered in a phased manner and will belong to the US Air Force's 495th Fighter Squadron.

General Jeff Harrigian, the commander of US Air Force Central Command, said "Our coalition forces train and fight in the most dynamic theater, requiring the most advanced platforms."

In 2015, RAF Lakenheath was chosen to host the first US F-35A squadrons in Europe.

The F-35A is an agile, versatile, high-performance, 9g-capable multirole fighter that combines stealth, sensor fusion and unprecedented situational awareness.

Defense writer Jennifer Svan, at Stars and Stripes, said the "deliveries were slated to begin in 2020 but were pushed back, in part because of construction delays at the facilities being built to support the fifth-generation fighters."

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is also reportedly aiming for an even larger presence of the F-35s on the continent.

General Tod Wolters, US European Command Commander and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has confirmed that the coalition will continue to build up its F-35 fighter capability in the coming years, according to Military.com.

"The US and other NATO allies could have four hundred fifty F-35s stationed in Europe by 2030, Wolters predicted during a June Atlantic Council discussion," the site wrote. "Allies such as the UK, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark have at least forty-nine F-35s, and dozens more are on the way," it added.

The latest delivery of F-35A aircraft comes amid heightened tensions between the West and the Russia over Ukraine.

Western countries accuse Russia of preparing for an invasion of Ukraine by amassing troops and armaments near the border with that country. Moscow says it is entitled to move its military freely within its borders and that it is taking precautionary steps because of increased NATO activity near its territory.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned the West against crossing the Kremlin's red lines by staging military exercises in and sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

In recent weeks, the Russian Air Force has repeatedly blocked US and NATO air patrol missions near its airspace in successful missions with rapid response operations.


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