480th Fighter Squadron Flying Training Deployment

RAF Lakenheath, UK

July 2017 saw the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath host circa 250 airmen and 18x Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon’s from the 52nd Fighter Wing (FW) at Spangdahlem, Germany. Arriving on July 10th direct from the 480th Fighter Squadron (FS) at Spangdahlem Air Base; it marked the beginning of a three week Flying Training Deployment (FTD) where they would be operating alongside aircraft from the 48th Fighter Wing, British and other NATO Allies. AIA’s Darren Willmin visited the Suffolk base to report:


The 480th Fighter Squadron, or ‘Warhawks’ as they are affectionately known, temporarily deployed to RAF Lakenheath enabling the completion of many training requirements for both aircrew and support personnel on the ground. This was necessary to ensure NATO Allies that the United States Air Force in Europe is ready and capable at any time. Whilst operating from the UK, the F-16’s operated alongside other allied forces which helped strengthen relationships and demonstrated a commitment to securing the region.


Daily sorties were flown alongside Royal Air Force Typhoons from RAF Coningsby and the 48th Fighter Wing’s very own F-15C Eagles, F-15E Strike Eagles and HH-60G Pave Hawks. Additionally the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall supported the 480th FS with KC-135 Stratotankers’ whilst providing air-to-air refuelling over UK airspace. A typical sortie undertaken whilst here included roles such as air-to-air engagement, simulated air-to-ground strikes using the UK ranges, low level flying through the Welsh low fly areas and of course air refuelling practise.

''We explore opportunities to increase interoperability, demonstrate our joint readiness and build partnership capacity, so any chance that we get to integrate with other platforms is great''.

Lt. Col. Michael “Bait” Richard, 480th FS Commander


The ‘Warhawks’ boast a proud record of more than 50 years of distinguished flying in defence of America's interests abroad operating the F-16CM Block 50 Fighting Falcon, informally referred to as the Viper. The F-16 is a highly manoeuvrable multi-role fighter aircraft and has proven itself in air-to-air and air-to-surface combat. These principles were represented whilst in UK as the 480th FS took part in the US Air Force 70th anniversary theme at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). Their involvement in the show consisted of two F-16’s participating in a fly past on all three days of the event, plus a further two airframes representing the squadron in the static park.


Being the only F-16 Block 50 squadron operating under the United States Air Force Europe Command, the 480th FS provide the Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe and USAFE Command with dedicated suppression of enemy air defence, air interdiction, counter-air and close air support capability. Following a successful deployment, the Warhawks returned to Spangdahlem on Monday July 31st bringing their three week residence in Suffolk to a close.


Aviation in Action would like to extend our thanks to the following for their assistance in making this article possible:

  • MSgt. Eric Burks (48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, RAF Lakenheath)
  • Lt. Col. Michael “Bait” Richard (480th Fighter Squadron Commander, Spangdahlem Air Base)



Credits: Article and photography by Darren Willmin