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Demolition work begins at RAF Lakenheath to house F-35 fighter jets

PUBLISHED: 12:41 20 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:44 20 March 2019

Demolition work has begun at RAF Lakenheath in preparation to house two F-35 squadrons Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

Demolition work has begun at RAF Lakenheath in preparation to house two F-35 squadrons Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

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Demolition work has started at RAF Lakenheath to prepare the Suffolk airbase for the arrival of two squadrons of US Air Force F-35 fighter jets.

The demolition is a milestone of the 48th Fighter Wing's effort to prepare for the first aircraft arrival projected for late 2021 Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONESThe demolition is a milestone of the 48th Fighter Wing's effort to prepare for the first aircraft arrival projected for late 2021 Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

A total of 18 buildings are being brought down to make way for construction of a flight simulator, a maintenance unit, new hangars and storage facilities.

The Suffolk base will be the first permanent international site for US Air Force F-35s in Europe.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) awarded a contract worth £160million to Kier VolkerFitzpatrick in November to deliver infrastructure to ready Lakenheath for the aircraft in late 2021.

Many of the old buildings were built with heavily reinforced concrete so contractors have had to employ specific techniques and equipment to bring the buildings down efficiently.

Construction at RAF Lakenheath is expected to start in the summer Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONESConstruction at RAF Lakenheath is expected to start in the summer Picture: USAF/SHANICE WILLIAMS-JONES

An hydraulic excavator equipped with specialised attachments that can break concrete and steel is being used to effectively ‘chew’ the structures apart.

The DIO, which is an arm of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), said waste materials will be recycled wherever possible.

Timber and metal will be carefully preserved for re-use if appropriate, and the concrete waste will be crushed, graded and re-used on the project.

The demolition work will make the site ready for the start of construction this summer, and up to 700 contractors are expected to be on site.

Two squadrons of F-35s will be housed at RAF Lakenheath Picture: USAF/AIRMAN ALEXANDER COOKTwo squadrons of F-35s will be housed at RAF Lakenheath Picture: USAF/AIRMAN ALEXANDER COOK

Keith Maddison, DIO programme director, said: “The demolition of these 18 buildings is an important step in preparing the site, to allow the enabling works to be completed in preparation for construction to begin in the summer of this year – we are all working to a single goal of having the first aircraft arrival in late 2021.

“The US Visiting Forces Infrastructure Programme is an incredibly exciting series of projects to work on and is strengthening the historic military ties between the two nations and the operating partnership between the RAF and US Air Force.”

Colonel Christopher Leonard, 48th Mission Support Group Commander, said: “Through outstanding teamwork and collaboration with our Defence Infrastructure Organisation mission partners, the 48th Fighter Wing is excited to start the demolition of existing facilities to clear the site for the F-35 campus.

“This campus will be the home to the first two US Air Force F-35 squadrons in Europe, thus reassuring our commitment and enhancing interoperability with the RAF and our NATO allies.

“We appreciate the Ministry of Defence and DIO’s commitment and support of US visiting forces in the UK.”

James Hindes, managing director of aviation and defence at Kier, added: “The start of demolition is a major milestone at RAF Lakenheath.

“These works are vital in allowing us to prepare the site for construction on this prestigious defence project from this summer.

“This is a crucial piece of infrastructure for the RAF and US Air Force, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the DIO and our local supply chain to deliver this.”

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