The United States will station two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets in the United Kingdom, the first European base selected for the advanced fighter jets, the Pentagon announced on Thursday.
The US Department of Defense said it would permanently base the F-35s at the Royal Air Force Lakenheath in Suffolk, England starting in 2020.
The F-35, made by Lockheed Martin, is a fifth generation fighter jet designed to perform ground attacks, reconnaissance and air defense missions.
“Today we announce that we will permanently place the F-35 in Europe,” Derek Chollet, Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security affairs said at a press briefing at the Pentagon on Thursday. “The presence of the F-35 at Lakenheath will allow for greater training and wider support,” he adds.
The newly announced plan is part of a US military consolidation in Europe that will close 15 US military bases and return them to host nations due to shrinking budgets.
Consolidation of American bases across Europe will save the Pentagon about $500 million a year when it’s completed in five or six years, even though it has to spend $1.4 billion to move and close the facilities.
The closures and infrastructure consolidations will affect 15 facilities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Portugal, the Pentagon says.
Some 2,000 US troops would be removed from Britain over the next several years– the biggest consolidation move in Europe in terms of personnel.
The United States has more than 64,000 troops stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy and Britain.
- Press TV