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Deal awarded for first permanent US F-35 jet facilities in Europe

The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II supersonic aircraft in November 2016. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

The British government has awarded a 160-million pound ($205 million) contract for construction work at RAF Lakenheath to prepare the base for the arrival of U.S. F-35A Lightning II stealth jets.

The deal is the first in a much bigger program to support Air Force operations in the U.K., with a further $1 billion expected to be in invested in the U.K. over the next seven to 10 years, according to the British Defence Infrastructure Organisation. It signed the contract with the Kier-VolkerFitzpatrick joint venture on Monday.

Work on the base, the first permanent facility for U.S. Air Force F-35s in Europe, will start in summer. The first F-35s are scheduled to arrive in 2021.

“For more than one hundred years now our armed forces have fought in defence of our common values and interests. Our two countries have developed the deepest, broadest and most advanced relationship of any two nations,” Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said in a statement.

Engineers will modify the base’s current infrastructure and build new squadron parking aprons, two new hangars, a new dual-squadron operations and aircraft maintenance facility, and a flight simulator networked with other simulators throughout the U.K.

About 700 contractors are expected on base at the height of construction. Once complete, it will welcome an additional 1,200 U.S. airmen and 48 aircraft to the U.K.

“This is an exciting milestone for the 48th Fighter Wing and for all our partners. We’re transforming RAF Lakenheath together, and the work we do today is critical to the future security of the United States, the United Kingdom and the NATO Alliance,” Col. Will Marshall, 48th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement.

The Royal Air Force currently has nine F-35s in its inventory, stationed nearby at RAF Marham.


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