On Feb. 1, 2022 a Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35B Lightning II aircraft from RAF Marham joined a US Air Force (USAF) B-1B Lancer and F-15 Strike Eagle aircraft for multiple flypasts in the UK to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Eighth Air Force.
According to a Royal Air Force news release, the Royal Air Force’s F-35 fifth-generation fighter jet joined the B-1B strategic bombers, which had flown directly from the US, and F-15s for the flypasts of both RAF Lakenheath and RAF Duxford. The location was once home to an Eighth Air Force P-51 unit and now hosts the largest air museum in Europe.
Originally stood up on Feb. 1, 1942 at Langley Field, Virginia, VIII Bomber Command moved to England a short while later, first to RAF Daws Hill and later to RAF High Wycombe, the RAF’s Bomber Command, where it established its wartime headquarters in the Wycombe Abbey School. The Eighth Air Force was a US Army Air Force Combat Air Force, focused on the European Theatre, that carried out strategic bombing of targets in France, the Low Countries and Germany.
“The Eighth Air Force has a long, rich history that dates back to World War II. Not only does this flight signify the longevity and reach of the United States’ bomber force, but it pays tribute to our UK allies as well. Eighth Air Force has had a close relationship with the Royal Air Force since its beginning.” Major General Andrew Gebara, Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center Commander, said. “For 80 years, bomber operations have remained a vital component to U.S. strategic forces.”
“Today’s sortie was an excellent opportunity for 207 Squadron to operate alongside our NATO partners whilst commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Eighth Air Force. Our ability to integrate our assets with NATO allies further strengthens our ability to flexibly employ Air Power across the NATO partnership.” Commander Tim Flatman, Officer Commanding 207 Squadron, said.
Eighth Air Force earned the name “The Mighty Eighth” due to its size and strength during WWII. By mid-1944, the unit had more than 200,000 members. At its peak, the Mighty Eighth could dispatch more than 1,000 four-engine bombers and varieties of fighter aircraft on a single mission if need be. On Feb. 22, 1944, the US reorganised its Air Forces in Europe by renaming Eighth Air Force as the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe, which is today known as US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE).
The RAF works alongside the Bomber Task Force (BTF) throughout the year, and has done for a number of years, providing opportunities to work and train with our allies. It traditionally involves exercising Quick Reaction Alert to escort BTF aircraft through UK airspace. BTFs demonstrate the US Air Force’s ability to rapidly deploy and integrate with NATO allies and coalition partners. These exercises showcase interoperability between the RAF and USAFE and demonstrate how the RAF is a key enabler for the US Air Force’s ability to rapidly deploy and integrate with NATO allies and coalition partners.
Photo credit: Cpl Scott, RAF Leeming
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