By: Scott Lee
RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom got an early look at the future in April, as it hosted the first transatlantic deployment of the USAF F-35A Lightning II. Eight of the 5th generation jets from the 34th FS ‘Rude Rams’ from Hill AFB in Utah, made the trip east accompanied by over 200 maintainers and staff from the 388th and 419th fighter wings.
What followed was an intensive two weeks of flight operations for the F-35’s, including two jets being forward deployed for short periods to Amari Airfield, Estonia, and Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria. Speculation in some quarters that the F-35A’s presence in Europe was a ‘show of force’, especially so close to Putin’s Russia, was firmly denied. The deployment was said to be a long-standing plan as part of America’s ERI (European Reassurance Initiative) Operation Atlantic Resolve, which has seen USAF F-22 Raptors and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft appear at RAF Lakenheath in recent years.