US F-35As At RAF Lakenheath

RAF Lakenheath has welcomed a small number of US F-35A Lightning II aircraft.

Their arrival at the Suffolk airbase marks the start of the stealth jets' first training deployment to Europe.

The F-35As hail from the US military's 34th Fighter Squadron, (388th Fighter Wing) and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron (419th Fighter Wing), based in Utah.

They'll conduct training with other US and NATO airbases across Europe for the next few weeks, as part of the European Reassurance initiative.

The US Department of Defense said the training signified an 'important milestone' in the F-35 programme and will help work out the requirements for their future basing in Europe.

F-35A At RAF Lakenheath

The multi-role joint strike fighter was declared combat capable for the US forces last year. RAF Lakenheath is the first overseas temporary location it has been based at.  

Two Joint Strike Fighter Squadrons will arrive at the base permanently by 2021. It means 1,200 extra US Air Force personnel will be based in Suffolk.

RAF Marham will become the home of Britain's F-35 Lightning Force in 2018. Last month the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, announced a £90 million investment to support the aircraft in a joint press conference with the US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Maintenance, training and logistic services will be provided at RAF Marham, with Sir Michael Fallon saying that the additional investment "will ensure that we have a formidable fighting force that, at a time of growing danger, will help us work with our US partners to promote international peace and security".

However, the F35 programme has been plagued with spiralling costs and delays.

In January the then US President-elect Donald Trump criticised the cost of Lockheed Martin's F-35 programme and said it was "many, many billions of dollars over budget".