RAF Lakenheath Remains a Legend of the Cold War


The Telegraph shares the story of RAF Lakenheath.  RAF Lakenheath is the largest military installation in the country and it is the site where the downed Pave Hawk helicopter had once flown. It is a legacy of the Cold War cooperation between the US and Britain.

The Suffolk site lies on the edge of Thetford Forest and it was first developed by the Royal Flying Corps during WWI. It was also used as a base for British bombers during the Second World War.

During the war, it was upgraded so that it could accommodate larger aircrafts, but peace had settled before it could ever be used.

It was kept mothballed, but in 1948 the base’s operation was given to the Americans. At the time, the US was moving into strategic locations in friendly countries around the world so they could keep an eye on the Soviet Union.

It was originally intended to be used by bomber squadrons, but in 1960 it has been home to the 48th Fighter Wing, which is known as the Liberty Wing.

Almost 4,500 service men and women supported by 2,000 British and American civilians worked in the wing. This also includes a separate base near the RAF Feltwell.

F-15 fighter planes and Pave Hawk helicopters call the base home. These aircrafts are used for both humanitarian and military missions which include civil search and rescue missions, medical evacuation and disaster response.

The operations from the runways have included the US bombing in Libya in 1986 which was code-named the El Dorado Canyon raids.

The wing also was the first F-11 fighter unit to deploy units to the First Gulf War during the operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The bas has played a role since in 2001 flying combat missions and it has provided combat support in Operation Enduring Freedom—the name given by the US government to the military operations in Afghanistan—and Iraqi Freedom, the code-name for the war in Iraq.

The origins of US airbases in the UK dates back to arrangements that were made when the Americans joined to fight against the Germans in the Second World War. These bases remained operational during the Cold War, but many have closed down in the 90s.

RAF Lakenheath, as well as RAF Mildenhall—which is home to a refueling aircraft—are now the two main US Air Force operated bases in the UK.

The US also operates the RAF Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, RAF Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire and RAF Croughton. Northamptonshire is one of the largest military communications centers in Europe. This base handles 30% of the US military traffic in all of Europe.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE