The first four Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs for the 48th Fighter Wing arrived at RAF Lakenheath, UK on 15th December. Chris Wood was there to see them arrive.
The aircraft (callsigns RETRO 31 to 34) flew direct from the Lockheed Martin facility alongside Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base (formerly Carswell AFB), Texas to Lakenheath.
They arrived shortly before 1400 local time (GMT) at the culmination of a nine hour flight. After a run and break for runway 24 they all performed one low approach and go-around before landing.
They were supported by a KC-135R (callsign BLUE 81) from the 155th Air Refuelling Wing of the Nebraska Air National Guard, which departed from Fort Worth shortly before 2300 local time (0500 GMT).
The KC-135R lead them to a rendezvous over upstate New York at around 0230 local time (0730 GMT) with a 305th Air Mobility Wing KC-10A (callsign BLUE 82), operating from Bangor, Maine. The KC-10A then took them the rest of the way.
Their route took them from Texas across the central United States to Maine, across the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, over the North Atlantic to the western isles of Scotland and then towards Perth. Here they turned south for Lakenheath and Mildenhall, where the KC-10A landed.
These are the first examples for the 495th Fighter Squadron ‘Valkyries’, which stood up on 1st October 2021, and they are the first US Air Force F-35As to be stationed outside the United States. The squadron motto ‘Mala Ipsa Nova’ (‘Bad News Itself’) is marked on the aircraft tails.
The 495th was last active at Lakenheath 30 years ago, when it was one of four squadrons operating the General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark, which was also a Fort Worth product.
The indications are that the next delivery is scheduled for early March 2022, as the squadron builds up to full strength.