RAF Mildenhall closure delayed until 2024
PUBLISHED: 18:22 26 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:11 27 September 2017
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
The closure of a major American airbase is to be delayed by another year.
The United States European Command (EUCOM) announced plans to close RAF Mildenhall in 2015 as part of a military review which will see it shut 14 other European bases, including RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth.
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It plans to build a new base in Germany to help it deal with a heightened security situation across the world.
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But the US Embassy has now formally updated the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) - which owns the site - on revised deadllines for withdrawals from the UK bases, with RAF Mildenhall Squadron Leader Rick Fryer saying: “The MoD has been advised that the full divestitures of RAF Mildenhall and RAF Alconbury/Molesworth will now occur no earlier than 2024.”
“The revised dates are due to delays in commencing project design and construction for the move of assets from RAF Mildenhall to Germany, and are dependent on the completion of the Joint Intelligence Analysis Center (JIAC) at RAF Croughton.”
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The news was welcomed by many across the community, including West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock.
“We in West Suffolk are proud to host the US Air Force, who do such important work in defending our shared values and interests,” Mr Hancock said.
“This delay will give yet more time to prepare for any US departure, and we must prepare for all eventualities.”
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The base was at first scheduled for closure in 2022 but was put back a year.
The latest delay means the 3,200 airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing will leave two years after originally planned.
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Mildenhall district councillor Nigel Roman, who was born there in 1941 and whose father was posted to the base in 1934, said he was pleased at the news.
“Let’s face it, we still have a very important aerodrome and the sooner they realise it - and the sooner we can help them realise it - the happier I will be.
He said that Forest Heath District Council is working to put in place plans for what happens if and when the base closes, with a bid for 4,000 new homes on the site being mooted.
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“I personally can’t understand why the Americans want so spend millions on a base in Germany when ultimately they’ve got it here,” Mr Roman said.
“It would lose us a colossal amount from the economy but we’re not going to be frightened if it does go.
“We’re taking steps to prepare so it’s not such a big impact.”
The base is one of the largest single employers in Forest Heath and features one of the longest runways in Europe. Locally, many people have voiced concerns the loss of income from RAF Mildenhall’s 3,200 airmen, and many thousands of dependents, could damage their economy and housing market.