Report by : Thierry LETELLIER
Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath, United Kingdom, is located 70 miles northeast of London and 25 miles from Cambridge. Nearly 5,000 US military personnel and 2,000 American and British civilian employees are assigned to the base. RAF Lakenheath was built in 1941 and in January 1942. Lakenheath was inactive until July 1948 when the USAAF flew in B29’s of 2nd Bomb Group as part of the Berlin airlift. In 1951 93rd Bomb Group flew B50’s from the base, and giant B-36’s and Globemasters followed. High security arrived in 1952 with a high wire fence so that B-47’s could arrive in 1953 together with other “secret” planes including the U-2.
In 1960 the Americans removed their nuclear capable fighters out of France and the 48th Wing moved into Lakenheath from Chaumont with F-100 Super Sabres and were reassigned from the 17th Air Force to the 3rd Air Force. RAF Lakenheath became SAC bases with this move. The 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath is theStatue of Liberty Wing, the only USAF wing with both a number and a name. Since activation at Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base, France, on 10 July 1952, Liberty Wing has been one of the premier fighter wings of the United States Air Forces in Europe, spending over 50 years as part of USAFE.
Later the 48th FW were to fly F-4’s, and in 1977 the F-111’s were introduced which were later to see action over Libya and in the Gulf. In 1980 the F-111s were modified by the installation of the Pave Tack system which allowed weapons delivery around the clock, from high or low altitudes. The first F-15E in Europe come to Lakenheath in February 1992. 48 in total were delivered up to May 1994 to the 48th Fighter Wing.Tactical squadrons of the 48th Operations Group are: 492th Fighter Squadron – 493th Fighter Squadron and 494th Fighter Squadron . 492th and 494th are using the F-15E ‘ Strike Eagle ‘ and 493th is equiped with F-15C/D models.
In addition to supporting three combat-ready squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagle and F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft, the Liberty Wing houses the 56th Rescue Squadron’s equiped with HH-60G Combat Search and Rescue helicopters. I spend a very pleasant couple of days; it would have been difficult to not be satisfied with this amount of sunshine. Only the last day of the trip saw the comback of grey skies.