The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and its construction partners, including Mott MacDonald, Jacobs, and KVF35, celebrated the inauguration of an F-35 fuel cell maintenance facility at RAF Lakenheath. 

The US Air Force’s ability to keep their F-35 aircraft in peak condition has been boosted with the unveiling of a fuel cell maintenance facility at RAF Lakenheath. 

This steel-framed maintenance hangar, complete with support accommodations and provisions for two aircraft, was designed by the KVF35 construction partner—a joint venture between Kier Group and VolkerFitzpatrick. Notably, it maintains architectural continuity with the other structures already in place for the F-35 project at RAF Lakenheath.

The UK MoD awarded the contract to the VolkerFitzpatrick joint venture in 2018 in a £160m ($131m) deal. The construction of the F-35 infrastructure commenced one year later. RAF Lakenheath will be Europe’s first permanent international home for the US Air Force’s (USAF) F-35 Lightning II combat jets.

Behind the US, the UK is the largest participant in the F-35 programme being run by Lockheed Martin Corp, according to GlobalData’s “UK Defense Market 2022-2027” report. 

Steve Rix, DIO’s programme director, emphasised the significance of this facility, stating, “F-35s are complex, advanced machines with numerous moving parts that require top-notch maintenance for effective operations. The fuel cell maintenance hangar is an essential component in ensuring the US Air Force’s F-35 fleet remains in peak condition.”

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Acknowledging the collaborative effort behind this achievement, Rix added, “We are immensely grateful to the DIO team, Mott MacDonald, Jacobs, KVF35, and our US allies for making this a reality. We are excited to witness this facility in operation.”

Beyond its features, the construction of this F-35 facility also demonstrated a commitment to environmental preservation. The construction team diligently safeguarded local ecology, adjusting schedules to protect rare nesting birds, including their nests and chicks, until they fledged.

Moreover, this project contributed to nurturing young talent by providing opportunities for apprentices through the construction supply chain. This approach has imparted experience to the next generation, impacting the industry.