The first F-35As are scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in late 2021. The base was selected to host the first US F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the RAF.
The 48th Fighter Wing (FW) has selected a new nickname for the first US Air Force (USAF) overseas-based F-35A Lightning II squadron. The wing solicited help from the public to name the unit. Suggestions were originally submitted in the fall of 2020, and were narrowed down from 700 unique names to five finalists. In December, the 48th FW received thousands of votes from opinion polls, and the wing is excited to announce that the 495th Fighter Squadron (FS) will be called the “Valkyries,” besting four other choices – Archangels, Sabres, Sentinels and Swordsmen.
In Norse mythology, Valkyries are female figures who choose those that will live or die in battle. RAF Lakenheath is in the east of the United Kingdom, an area with extensive Viking and Norse history. Additionally, the 495th FS motto, “Mala Ipsa Nova,” in Latin, means “Bad News Itself.” Both factors emphasize “Valkyries” as an extremely suitable nickname for the UK-based unit.
“‘Valkyries’ epitomizes the force’s move toward more inclusivity and equally represents the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s air superiority,” said Lt. Col. Ian McLaughlin, the incoming 495th FS commander. “I am honored to be the first commander of the initial U.S. Air Force overseas-based F-35A unit. Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace.”
The first F-35As are scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in late 2021. According to the 48th FW news release, the base was selected to host the first US F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the RAF, existing infrastructure and combined training opportunities. The UK is a critical component in training and combat readiness for Air Forces in Europe due to its excellent airspace and F-35 program partnership.
“The amount of support we received, and continue to receive, from the community both here and back home has been overwhelming and highly appreciated,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th FW commander. “Basing F-35s at RAF Lakenheath will be a game changer as it will allow us to further advance interoperability with our European teammates, and is a visible demonstration that we and all of NATO will continue to own the skies.”
The 495th was activated on Apr. 1 1977 as the 495th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS), becoming the fourth tactical fighter squadron with the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at RAF Lakenheath, England. The 495th mission was as a replacement training unit for General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSO) assigned to the other three fighter squadron.
The 495th TFS participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon on Apr. 15,1986, the air raid against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan government due to its involvement in the West Berlin discotheque bombing ten days prior. The mission was successful, however one of the squadron’s F-111Fs (70-2389), callsign ‘Karma 52’, was shot down over the Gulf of Sidra, killing pilot Capt. Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci and WSO Capt. Paul F. Lorence.
In 1990, the 495th TFS deployed to Taif Air Base, Saudi Arabia, as part of Operation Desert Shield which was in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The squadron suffered a loss on Oct. 15, 1990, when F-111F 74-0183 crashed during a night time training mission, killing pilot Capt. Art Reid and WSO Capt. Thomas Caldwell. The 495th later participated in Operation Desert Storm. On Oct. 1, 1991, the unit was redesignated as the 495th Fighter Squadron. The 495th was inactivated on Dec. 13, 1991, shortly before retirement of the F-111F Aardvark at RAF Lakenheath.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force