Kier-VolkerFitzpatrick has begun demolition work at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath in Suffolk in the UK, to prepare the base for the arrival of two squadrons of US Air Force (USAF) F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft.

The work is part of a Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) project to get RAF Lakenheath ready for the F-35 Lightning II combat jets.

As part of the demolition work, the company is demolishing 18 buildings. Once the work is completed, new infrastructure will be built, including a flight simulator facility, a maintenance unit, hangars and storage facilities.

DIO Programme Director Keith Maddison said: “The demolition of these 18 buildings is an important step in preparing the site, to allow the enabling works to be completed in preparation for construction to begin in the summer of this year. We are all working to a single goal of having the first aircraft arrival in late 2021.

“The US Visiting Forces Infrastructure Programme is an incredibly exciting series of projects to work on and is strengthening the historic military ties between the two nations and the operating partnership between the RAF and USAF.”

In November, Kier-VolkerFitzpatrick received a £160m contract from DIO to deliver infrastructure to support two US F-35 squadrons at RAF Lakenheath.

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“This campus will be the home to the first two USAF F-35 squadrons in Europe, thus reassuring our commitment and enhancing interoperability with the RAF and our NATO allies.”

The new flight simulator will allow joint training exercises involving pilots from the UK and the US on a regular basis. Construction work is planned to take place later this year.

The Suffolk airbase has been chosen as the first permanent international site to host the USAF’s F-35s in Europe.

RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Mission support group commander Colonel Christopher Leonard said: “Through outstanding teamwork and collaboration with our DIO mission partners, the 48th Fighter Wing is excited to start the demolition of existing facilities to clear the site for the F-35 campus.

“This campus will be the home to the first two US Air Force F-35 squadrons in Europe, thus reassuring our commitment and enhancing interoperability with the RAF and our NATO allies.”

Contractors are using a hydraulic excavator equipped with specialised attachments to demolish the old buildings. The techniques and equipment can break concrete and steel efficiently.

During peak construction, the project will involve 700 contractors, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The first of the USAF’s F-35s is expected to arrive at RAF Lakenheath in 2021.

–Additional reporting by Talal Husseini.