Lakenheath/Mildenhall: Communities speak of importance of bases

Olivia Riser is pictured at Lakenhath News. Olivia is commenting about the importance of RAF Lakenhe

Olivia Riser is pictured at Lakenhath News. Olivia is commenting about the importance of RAF Lakenheath to the community - Credit: Archant

THOSE living near two air bases in west Suffolk have reiterated their importance following the news budget cuts have left up to 75 fighter planes grounded.

The East Anglian Daily Times reported yesterday the US Air Force (USAF) has stood down two of 48th Fighter Wing’s F-15 Eagle Squadrons, based at RAF Lakenheath, from operations.

While at RAF Mildenhall, 100th Air Refuelling Wing has had its training flights reduced.

Iain frost, a parish councillor for Lakenheath, said he could envisage the bases shutting in the future, which - if it were to happen - “would take a significant chunk of money out of our local economy”.

He said: “Both bases are a very important part of the local community. They bring a lot of business in.

“There’s also the voluntary aspect as well. The military do do lots of projects in the local community.

“They do get involved, although probably lots don’t live in the local community now base housing has expanded.”

Most Read

Mr Frost, a Lakenheath resident whose father was in the US military, added local residents also work on the bases.

He said while it would be sad to see the Americans go, and the bases might be needed strategically - for example for NATO purposes - it was spending the US Government could probably put elsewhere.

“The thing is they were never likely to be here forever anyway,” he said.

But Ian Smith, vice chairman of Lakenheath Parish Council and a Lakenheath resident, thought it was “highly unlikely” the bases would close.

He said: “We would certainly miss them and we certainly value their contributions, but my personal opinion is I don’t think the bases are likely to close any time soon. Not with the way things are in the world anyway.”

He said the troops made “quite a difference” to the local community, from boosting business to tidying up the area.

Olivia Riser, 16, who works part-time at the Lakenheath News newsagents, said they came in on their way to work.

Miss Riser, from Lakenheath and who wants to join the US military, added: “A lot of the properties are rented here to Americans. I suppose if the base shut down and they have to move somewhere else Lakenheath would be quite empty.”

Malcolm Smith, chairman of Mildenhall Parish Council, did not think the defence cuts would make any difference there at the moment.

“The base [Mildenhall] would still have to carry on as normal I presume,” he said.

He added: “I would have thought they were very vital to the [local] economy at the moment.”

Mr Frost could not recall fighter planes had ever been grounded before at RAF Lakenheath.

Yesterday, a spokesman for RAF Lakenheath said no official information had been released on whether RAF Lakenheath would be grounding any of its approximately 75 F-15 fighter aircraft.

The spokesman said: “Wing leadership would like to reassure the public that even in the event of a stand down of aircraft at RAF Lakenheath, there will be no change to the base’s manning.

“The 4,500 airmen and 2,000 civilian employees will remain a part of the local community, and normal duty cycles will continue.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter