Demolition Begins At RAF Lakenheath To Prepare For Arrival Of F-35s

It is part of a Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) project to get the base ready for the two squadrons of jets.

A hydraulic excavator with specialised attachments is being used (Picture: US Air Force).

Demolition work has begun at RAF Lakenheath to prepare the base for the arrival of two squadrons of F-35 jets.

A total of 18 buildings are being brought down to make way for construction of a flight simulator facility, a maintenance unit, new hangars and storage facilities.

Last November, Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) awarded a contract worth £160 million to Kier-VolkerFitzpatrick to deliver infrastructure to ready RAF Lakenheath for the aircraft in late 2021.

The Suffolk airbase will be the first permanent international site for US Air Force F-35s in Europe and continues the base’s long and proud history of supporting US Air Force capability in the UK.

WATCH: In November, USAF 48th Fighter Wing Commander, Colonel Will Marshall, showed Forces News how the Suffolk base will change.

Contractors have had to contend with specific techniques to deal with the heavily reinforced concrete, used to build many of the old buildings.

A hydraulic excavator equipped with specialised attachments which can break concrete and steel is being used, effectively 'chewing' the structures apart.

The construction work is being carried out with environmental considerations in mind. Timber and metal are to be carefully preserved for re-use if appropriate, while the concrete waste will be crushed, graded and re-used on the project.

The metal reinforcements in the buildings will be separated from the concrete and sent away to be recycled, possibly returning to the site or to another construction project as reinforcement or structural steelwork.

F-35A lands at RAF Lakenheath
An F-35 lands at RAF Lakenheath (Picture: US Air Force).

Keith Maddison, DIO Programme Director, said: "The demolition of these 18 buildings is an important step in preparing the site, to allow the enabling works to be completed in preparation for construction to begin in the summer of this year, we are all working to a single goal of having the first aircraft arrival in late 2021.

"The US Visiting Forces Infrastructure Programme is an incredibly exciting series of projects to work on.

"It is strengthening the historic military ties between the two nations and the operating partnership between the RAF and US Air Force."