The F-35A bound to the recently reactivated 495th FS Valkyries has flown with the new markings and the “LN” tail code for the first time.
The first F-35A Lightning II sporting the markings of the 495th Fighter Squadron of the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath just broke cover.
The 495th FS “Valkyries” will be the first Europe-based U.S. F-35 squadron. It was re-activated on Oct. 1, 2021, at a specific, symbolic time, 8:49 and 50 second, that is to say exactly 30 years since the former 495th Tactical Fighter Squadron was redesignated as Fighter Squadron, shortly before being inactivated in 1991.
The first aircraft is expected to be delivered at RAF Lakenheath by the end of the year and, ahead of its delivery to the unit, it has started to fly Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas, last week. On Nov. 1, 2021, Matt Ellis took the photo you can find in this article as the aircraft was about to land at the end of a customer test flight.
The first aircraft, 19-5474/AF 302, whose tail was already depicted in a photo posted by RAF Lakenheath FB page last week, sports the 495th Fighter Squadron emblem on the air intake and the LN code, the shield of United States Air Forces in Europe as well as the motto “Mala Ipsa Nova” (Latin for “Bad News Itself”) on the twin tails.
The 495th Fighter Squadron is scheduled to be fully mission capable in 2022 with a total of 27 aircraft and 60 personnel.
Here’s what we wrote about the “Valkyries” after the squadron was officially re-activated:
With the introduction of the F-35A, the 495th FS will step the 48th Fighter Wing and USAFE into the 5th generation of air power advancing multi-domain capabilities and air superiority, according to the press release. “The 495th Fighter Squadron represents a huge step in refining interoperability,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “We’ve already started exercising these capabilities with our partners who have F-35s in theater, so we’ll be ready to get after it when the new aircraft arrive in December.”
As we already reported in the past here at The Aviationist, the F-35s have already deployed to Lakenheath in the recent past. In fact, F-35s deployed multiple times there since 2017 to train in Europe and allow pilots and maintainers to learn more about the European operating environment, as well as improving the interoperability with partners in the region. The presence of the F-35 during these deployments also allowed to test the infrastructure and support before the aircraft is permanently assigned to the British base.
The 495th FS will be joined later by another F-35 squadron, as the DoD said that, with the reorganization of the U.S. Air Force units across Europe, two squadrons with 24 F-35s each would be based at RAF Lakenheath. Lakenheath is the perfect base for the perfect weapon system in the perfect country,” said Col. Robert Novotny, 48th Fighter Wing commander in press release published on the Air Force website back then. The second F-35 has not been identified yet however, according to some sources, the “Grim Reapers” of the 493rd FS might trade their F-15Cs for the F-35, and Lakenheath would become home of two F-35 squadrons and two F-15E squadrons.
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.