Multi-million pound investment for RAF Lakenheath ahead of welcoming US F-35s

Leaders from RAF Lakenheath, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Air Force Civil Engineer Cente

Leaders from RAF Lakenheath, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Air Force Civil Engineer Center, West Suffolk County Council and Kier VolkerFitzpatrick pose for a photo at RAF Lakenheath. Picture: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Alex Echols - Credit: Archant

One of East Anglia's most important air bases will see £160m of new infrastructure as it prepares for the arrival of American fighter jets.

RAF Lakenheath will become the first permanent base for US Air Force F-35s in Europe in a move which the government says will strengthen the 'historic military ties' between the US and the UK.

The £160m contract, awarded to construction firm Kier VolkerFitzpatrick, will see a flight simulator facility, a maintenance unit, and new hangers and storage facilities.

The flight simulator will have the ability to link remotely to other simulators used by UK pilots across the UK and beyond, allowing expertise to be shared and for UK and US pilots to train together.

Around 700 people will be working on the site at the height of construction, with Kier VolkerFitzpatrick stating 40pc of materials for the supply chain will be procured within a 75 mile radius of the base.

Tobias Ellwood, minister for defence people and veterans, said the move would bring 'substantial benefits' to the economy around the area.

He said: 'For more than one hundred years now our armed forces have fought in defence of our common values and interests. Our two countries have developed the deepest, broadest and most advanced relationship of any two nations.

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'Today marks another step towards reinforcing the strong partnership between our two nations and an exciting milestone for RAF Lakenheath.'

He added: 'This investment will see substantial benefits to local economy, bringing 1,000 new personnel with their families and we will work hard to ensure that the benefits will last long after construction ends.'

The commander of USAF 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, Colonel Will Marshall, said: ''This is an exciting milestone for the 48th Fighter Wing and for all our partners.

'We're transforming RAF Lakenheath together, and the work we do today is critical to the future security of the United States, the United Kingdom and the NATO Alliance.'

Construction is due to begin in the summer of 2019 ahead of the arrival of the F-35s from November 2021.