West Suffolk: RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall survive the US Government’s European Infrastructure Consolidation review
- Credit: Archant
The future of west Suffolk’s US Air Force bases looks to be secure after a major review by the American military resolved to keep them open.
Both RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall have survived the cuts outlined in the US Department of Defense’s recent European Infrastructure Consolidation (EIC) review.
The project will see $60million of annual savings delivered across the continent after months of auditing and negotiation, with the closure of a redundant ammunition storage at RAF Mildenhall the only facility affected in west Suffolk.
There were major fears about RAF Lakenheath after a report by the RAND Corporation, which fed into the EIC review, recommended the base for closure in two of three options.
However, the EIC review has opted to close a series of facilities that will have no impact on the military’s operational capacity.
Between them both bases contribute more than £500m to the area’s economy every year, and local county and district councillor Colin Noble hailed the announcement as “good news”.
He added: “They’ve been with us for a long time, they’re very much part of the community, and a lot of people work on the bases as well.
“I did read the relevant sections of the RAND report, we have seen reports before and with such a big spend it is something they review on a regular basis.
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“If it ever did happen, it would undoubtedly cause problems and it would be a great shame, because as much as anything else we enjoy having them here with us.”
RAND’s report suggested Lakenheath, which is home to the 48th Fighter Wing, was too far from combat areas such as the Middle East, although there has been mounting pressure to keep a strong military force in Europe in light of recent events in Ukraine.
As well as the storage facilities at Mildenhall, 15 housing units at RAF Feltwell will be discarded, while other facilities given up around the continent include a golf course, a hotel and a skeet range.
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“None of these adjustments affect existing force structure or military capabilities, and the efficiencies will further enable US European Command to resource high priority missions,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary.
American forces have been at RAF Lakenheath since 1948 and it is home to 4,500 military personnel and 2,000 civilian staff, thousands of whom live off-base.
Closing it could have saved the air force $314m every year, according to RAND’s 487-page report. The base costs the US Air Force $211m annually.
RAF Mildenhall, which costs $222m every year, is home to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing and is considered a key tactical base.