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U.S. Air Force activates first Europe-based F-35A Squadron

At 8:49 and 50 seconds, Oct. 1, 2021, U.K., time the 48th Fighter wing at RAF Lakenheath in England reactivated the 495th Fighter Squadron.

The 495th FS, nicknamed the Valkyries, is the first U.S. Air Force F-35A squadron in Europe. The time chosen for the reactivation was exactly 30 years to the day since its designation as a fighter squadron.

The first F-35A is scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath later this year. The base was selected to host the first U.S. F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the Royal Air Force, existing infrastructure, and combined training opportunities. Additionally, the U.K. is a critical component in training and combat readiness for U. S. Air Forces in Europe due to its excellent airspace and F-35 program partnership.

Lt. Col. Ian D. McLaughlin has assumed command as the first commander since the squadron’s inactivation in 1991. “Today is an exciting day. There has been a great deal of work done to get us this far, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done prior to getting jets this winter. The 495th has a proud history and we’re excited to take the guidon forward to start building the foundation for first USAF F-35As stationed in Europe.”

The new F-35 squadron will consist of 27 aircraft and roughly 60 personnel.

U.S. Air Force Col. Sean Lowe, 48th Operations Group commander, passes the guidon of the 495th Fighter Squadron to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ian McLaughlin, incoming 495th FS commander, at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Oct. 1, 2021. Nicknamed the “Valkyries,” the 495th FS is scheduled to be fully mission capable next year with a total of 27 aircraft and 60 personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cedrique Oldaker)

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