Construction begins for first permanent U.S. F-35 base in Europe
Stars and Stripes
A $205 million construction project to prepare RAF Lakenheath for the arrival of two squadrons of U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter jets in 2021 officially got underway Monday.
The commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe — U.S. Air Forces Africa, Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, and other dignitaries plunged shovels into dirt at what will become the first permanent site for U.S. F-35s in Europe.
U.K. firms Kier and VolkerFitzpatrick will build a flight simulator facility, maintenance unit, hangars and storage units at the site, in time for the arrival of 48 F-35s in November 2021. The Royal Air Force currently has nine F-35s at RAF Marham, about 25 miles north of Lakenheath.
“This will be a great opportunity to reinforce together how we will train, execute and operate on a daily basis, and allow us to deepen what is a critically important relationship,” Harrigian said at the groundbreaking.
The project is the first in a broad program to support Air Force operations in the U.K. A further $1 billion is expected to be invested in the program over the next seven to 10 years, said the Defense Infrastructure Organization, which last year awarded the contract for the F-35 campus.
“The project team is in good shape — we are on schedule for completion in 2021,” Kier’s managing director of aviation and defense James Hindes was quoted as saying by The Construction Index, an industry website.
The completed campus will host around 1,200 U.S. airmen. Currently, more than 9,100 U.S. servicemembers are based in the U.K, according to Pentagon data.
Recent problems with engine delivery of the F-35A are not expected to delay the arrival of America’s newest fighter jet at Lakenheath, a 48th Fighter Wing spokeswoman said Monday.
Of the 81 engines that were delivered in 2018, 86% were late, according to a Government Accountability Office report in April. That was up from 48% that were not delivered on time the previous year, when fewer engines were delivered.
The delays were due in part to an increase in the “average number of quality issues per engine”– 941 in 2018 against 777 a year earlier, the GAO report said.
United Technologies’ Pratt and Whitney unit, the only company to make the engines, is under a corrective action request from the Defense Contract Management Agency for “poor delivery performance,” according to a July report by Bloomberg News.
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