Planes return to U.S. air base

By Dave GooderhamMILITARY chiefs have admitted a $30million regeneration programme at an American air base might not be enough to safeguard its future.

By Dave Gooderham

MILITARY chiefs have admitted a $30million regeneration programme at an American air base might not be enough to safeguard its future.

The landscape at RAF Mildenhall has been changed forever after a £10million runway, 123ft high tower and one of the largest fire stations in the country were all built.

Funded largely by the U.S. Government, the improvements were seen by many people as a way of ensuring the base's future - following reports Pentagon officials were looking to redeploy American forces in Europe, possibly forcing RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath to close.

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But Colonel Richard Devereaux said he was unable to give any assurances following yesterday's official opening of the new facilities.

“This has been a big investment and the project has the potential to last for many years,” he added.

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“The U.S. Government have put in a lot of money, but I am sure there are many factors that go into this kind of decision and all have to be weighed.

“I am not privy to the high-level discussions going on and our focus here is to do our missions for as long as the British and American governments want us to.

“We are just excited about the new facilities. This is a historic day and will help us in the global war against terrorism.”

The ceremony also featured the first KC-135 Stratotanker to touch back down at RAF Mildenhall after planes and service personnel left the area for four months to make way for the work on the runway.

More planes will arrive back from RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, over the next few weeks as normal service returns to the Suffolk air base.

The nine-storey control tower, reached by 147 steps, has replaced a three-storey structure, built in the 1950s, and is seen as vital to operations at RAF Mildenhall.

Senior master Sgt Rob Braun, a controller in the tower, said: “The facility modernises RAF Mildenhall in quite a few ways and brings us up to the standards seen in the U.S.

“We now have much better clarity in transmission and much better radio connections. The vantage point given also enhances our overall awareness and gives us a much more safer environment.

Col Devereaux said: “All the facilities are very grand and the contrast between the old and new tower is stark.

“The previous tower was a hotch-potch facility, but we now have brand-new facilities integrated with the latest technologies, which will benefit operations in Mildenhall.”

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