Fears over future of airbase

A SUFFOLK United States Airforce Base is set to lose two of the units which it houses and has sparked fears that the huge facility itself may be shut.As part of plans announced by Marine General James Jones, Commander of the US European Command, two units could be transferred from RAF Mildenhall to bases in Eastern Europe within months.

A SUFFOLK United States Airforce Base is set to lose two of the units which it houses and has sparked fears that the huge facility itself may be shut.

As part of plans announced by Marine General James Jones, Commander of the US European Command, two units could be transferred from RAF

Mildenhall to bases in Eastern Europe within months.

The move comes as Gen Jones pushes on with a project aimed at moving US bases out of Western Europe and into Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Romania.


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In the US forces official newspaper Stars and Stripes, General Gregory Martin, commander of US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) revealed RAF Mildenhall's involvement.

He was quoted as saying there are three units he is looking to relocate into Eastern Europe in the 'near future', and two of them are currently based at Mildenhall.

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Gen Martin said that U-2 spy planes traditionally rotated through Mildenhall and RC-135 Rivet Joint Surveillance aircraft, currently housed at the base, will be moved.

But speaking yesterday 1st Lt Richard Komurek, of USAFE public affairs, stressed that the move has yet to be rubber-stamped.

He said: "These are initial ideas about what could happen – it's very preliminary.

"As far as talking about the number of people and aircraft that could be leaving England and going to another place, it is really too early to tell.

"It should not be taken that all these aircraft and personnel will definitely be going."

While the two units are not major parts of RAF Mildenhall, which houses the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the headqurters of the 3rd Air Force, the news will lead many people worried that it might be the beginning of the end for the huge base.

The news follows a review at both Mildenhall and nearby RAF Lakenheath which sought to pinpoint ways of cutting civilian jobs at the bases, with a total of 850 positions to be slashed across USAFE.

At the time of the review, one unamed civillian worker told the EADT there was anxiety on both bases that one would be closed.

Reacting to yesterday's news, Mildenhall parish councillor John Taylor called for the town to prepare itself for a base closure.

Mr Taylor, who also heads the Mildenhall Community Partnership, a group which has been formed to regenerate the town, said: "It would be a bit of a shock if units are starting to move already.

"I think it will worry people. My view is that we need to be getting prepared for a responsive Mildenhall in the event that the base is either trimmed down or closed all together.

"We know that it could happen, and we need to be prepared for the possibility."

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