Airmen to leave East Anglian base

By Dave GooderhamMORE than 600 airmen will be moved out of one of the region's air bases while major work is carried out to its runway.RAF Mildenhall's two-mile runway - which was built in the 1930s as Britain prepared for an impending war with Germany - is soon to undergo a major facelift at a cost of almost £9million.

By Dave Gooderham

MORE than 600 airmen will be moved out of one of the region's air bases while major work is carried out to its runway.

RAF Mildenhall's two-mile runway - which was built in the 1930s as Britain prepared for an impending war with Germany - is soon to undergo a major facelift at a cost of almost £9million.

The improvements have been described as vital as the runaway, made mainly from asphalt, is in dire need of rebuild.


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Engineering flight commander, Captain Derek Ferland, said: “The runway has reached the end of its life cycle.

“We know it is an inconvenience to move all the folks, but the work will provide a better surface for our operation support mission.”

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But it will mean more than 640 airmen and some of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing's most famous planes will be leaving the Suffolk air base and moving to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire to make way for the work.

Project co-ordinator, Major Edwin Skinner, said one stumbling block was where to relocate the servicemen and women.

“We looked at all the different options available to us and there wasn't a lot to choose from,” he added.

“There is no parking at RAF Honington and all runway maintenance has been turned off and would cost a fortune to start up again.

“There is already a couple of squadrons at RAF Marham, so the only place available was RAF Fairford or a base in Spain.

“It is quite difficult because so many different organisations are involved. The idea is to make our footprints in Fairford small and allow our servicemen to work down there and then come back to Suffolk at weekends.”

Maj Skinner admitted the reaction from servicemen was not all that favourable as they faced up to the prospect of travelling a round trip of 320 miles on an almost weekly basis.

“No-one wants to be deployed for six months, living on base two to a room. They are not that happy, but it will not affect our operations at Mildenhall. It is not the greatest deal, but it could be a lot worse - they could be in a tent in the desert,” he said.

Aircrafts, including the wing's 15 KC-135 Stratotankers, will start to be moved in the next few days, closely followed by airmen from the base with construction on the runway beginning almost as soon as the final aircraft takes off.

The base's 352nd Special Operations Group will also uproot its nine C-130s to neighbouring RAF Lakenheath, while its MH-53 PaveLow helicopters will remain at RAF Mildenhall and continue to fly.

The work, which should be completed by the end of August, is being funded by the U.S. government and Nato.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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