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Lakenheath

Military site : airfield

Selected in 1940 as the site of a 2nd satellite for RAF Mildenhall, Lakenheath was built and opened in 1941. It had three Class A extended hard runways and 36 hardstandings as aircraft dispersal points. The original pair of T2 hangars were supplemented later by one B1 hangar, and in 1943 by three more T2 hangars. It operated primarily as a Short Stirling heavy bomber & mine-layer base until April 1944, when it closed for upgrading to very heavy bomber standard. This was in anticipation of Lakenheath becoming a US 8th Air Force base for Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. Three new, extra large, concrete runways were laid, the biggest at 3,000 yards long by 100 yards wide, but work was incomplete when the war ended in 1945, and the station was placed on care and maintenance until 1948. The Berlin blockade crisis required the threat from the UK of USAF nuclear-capable bombers, and the 2nd Bomb Group equipped with B-29s was detached to Lakenheath on Temporary Duty (TDY) in July 1948. From then, a total of 33 Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomb groups or wings, equipped with B-29s, then Boeing B-50 improved Superfortresses, then Boeing B-47 Stratojets, rotated through the station on TDY deployments. Other visitors during the 1950s, when Lakenheath was controlled by SAC’s 7th Air Division, included Convair B-36 Peacemaker intercontinental nuclear bombers, plus a variety of in-flight refuelling tankers and transport aircraft. As part of the process from 1959 of withdrawing USAF forces from France, Lakenheath converted to a USAFE tactical fighter base. It became home in January 1960 to the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing – just Fighter Wing (FW) since 1991 – which has remained the main resident flying unit to the present day. Equipped in 1960 with North American F-100D Super Sabres, the Wing converted to McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom IIs during 1971-74; to General Dynamics
F-111F Aardvarks in 1977; and to McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles from 1992. In January 2015, the 48th FW – named the Liberty Wing – comprises the 48th Operations Group, the 48th Maintenance Group, the 48th Medical Group and the 48th Mission Support Group. The Operations Group provides five squadrons of McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle fighters and F-15E Strike Eagles, plus Sikorsky
HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters. It was announced in January 2015 by the US Department of Defense that RAF Lakenheath will be from 2020 the first and only USAFE base in Europe operating new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters. About 1,200 personnel from RAF Mildenhall will transfer to Lakenheath, when Mildenhall closes as a USAFE base after 2020. RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth will also close as USAFE bases in 2022.

Detailed history

Not yet known

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
15 January 2015 14:14:22 IWMPM Changes to construction date and description
Sources

Freeman, R A. 'Bases Of Bomber Command Then And Now'. Battle of Britain International. 2001. ISBN 1-870067-35-5

RAF Lakenheath & 48th Fighter Wing: http://www.lakenheath.af.mil/index.asp

48th Fighter Wing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/48th_Fighter_Wing

Date Contributor Update
09 January 2015 12:37:27 IWMPM Created entry with name and description
Sources

USAFE-AFAfrica Press Release, 08 January 2015. See http://www.lakenheath.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123435807

USAFE-AFAfrica Press Release, 08 January 2015. See http://www.mildenhall.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123435803

BBC News England, 08 January 2015. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-30725366

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