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F-35A Lightning IIs leave RAF Lakenheath after training deployment

PUBLISHED: 12:46 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:46 09 May 2017

An F-35A Lightning II from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, lands at RAF Lakenheath on a training deployment. Picture: Master Sgt Eric Burks

An F-35A Lightning II from the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, lands at RAF Lakenheath on a training deployment. Picture: Master Sgt Eric Burks

Archant

Eight of the “most sophisticated aircraft in history” which were on a training deployment at RAF Lakenheath have returned home to the United States.

The F-35A Lightning II at RAF Lakenheath. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017 The F-35A Lightning II at RAF Lakenheath. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

The F-35A Lightning IIs from the 34th Fighter Squadron, based at Hill Force Base in Utah, completed the first F-35 training deployment to Europe where they were based at RAF Lakenheath.

MORE - “Revolutionary” F-35A Lightning IIs on deployment at RAF Lakenheath to maximise training and strengthen US and UK alliance

During their deployment, the squadron flew 76 sorties and tallied more than 154 flying hours alongside F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing.

The aircraft also made trips to Estonia and Bulgaria to maximize training opportunities and build partnerships with allied air forces.

F-35A Lightnings from Hill Air Force Base in Utah,  fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, in March 2017. Picture:US Air Force photo/Ronald Bradshaw/75th Air Base Wing F-35A Lightnings from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, in March 2017. Picture:US Air Force photo/Ronald Bradshaw/75th Air Base Wing

Lt Col Jason Zumwalt, 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, said: “This exercise provided our pilots with the opportunity to practice working together to solve complex tactical scenarios using integrated operations that optimized both the F-35 and F-15’s capabilities.

“We found that by working together, we can achieve a higher level of performance than either aircraft can achieve alone.”

The deployment also helped to refine bed-down procedures for when the Suffolk airbase received its first permanent F-35As.

Demolition work at the USAAF base is scheduled to begin in 2018 followed by construction of new facilities in 2019 ready for the arrival of the £100m fighters - 54 in total - from 2021.

Lt Col Zumwalt added: “It was an honor to host the 34th at RAF Lakenheath, where we were able to integrate our operations in a shared workspace.”

RAF Lakenheath have said there will be increased flying operations this week so expect to hear and see more F-15 Strike Eagles above the skies of East Anglia.

MORE - Increased flying activity from RAF Lakenheath’s F-15s next week

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