US Activates F-35 Squadron in Europe

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US Activates F-35 Squadron in Europe
The United States Air Force activated its first squadron of F-35As based in Europe on Oct. 1 at RAF Lakenheath, U.K., as the service prepares to deliver the first fighters in December.

The 495th Fighter Squadron was activated 30 years to the day after it was designated as a fighter squadron in 1991. However, the squadron was deactivated only a few months later.

The Air Force announced in 2015 that Lakenheath would be the first base in Europe to receive the new F-35 fighter, and in September 2020, US Air Forces in Europe announced that the 495th would be reactivated under the 48th Fighter Wing.

According to a 48th Fighter Wing release announcing the squadron's activation, the 495th will be comprised of 27 F-35s and approximately 60 personnel. The Air Force intends to base a total of 48 F-35s in two squadrons at Lakenheath.

The first F-35s were supposed to arrive in Europe in 2020, but construction delays pushed that date back to 2021.

On October 1, Lt. Col. Ian D. McLaughlin took command of the 495th. The squadron will be known as the Valkyries, after the Norse mythological female figures who decide who lives and dies in battle.

At a June event, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters predicted that by 2030, the United States and its allies and partners would have 450 F-35s in Europe.

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