Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The British Ministry of Defense awarded Kier VolkerFitzpatrick $205.7 million to build infrastructure at RAF Lakenheath for two squadrons of U.S. F-35s.
Work would include construction of a flight simulator, maintenance facilities, new hangers and warehousing. The contract is the first in a new $1 billion plus program of military construction in support of U.S-British Air Force operations over the next decade. The British Ministry of Defense estimates the construction would have 700 contractors on site and eventually support 1,000 base personnel and dependents.
Lakenheath would be the first permanent airbase for U.S. Air Force F-35s in Europe, which is home to the 48th Fighter Wing flying the F-15 Eagle. The flight simulator to be constructed will network with other simulators in Britain and the United States, allowing F-35 pilots from both countries to train against each other.
"For more than one hundred years now our armed forces have fought in defence of our common values and interests. Our two countries have developed the deepest, broadest and most advanced relationship of any two nations," Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said.
"Today marks another step towards reinforcing the strong partnership between our two nations and an exciting milestone for RAF Lakenheath."
Britain has received its first F-35Bs for testing and plans to purchase 138 of the vertical takeoff and landing versions of the plane for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Lockheed Martin says 15 percent of components for the more than 3,000 F-35s planned to be built will be made in Britain.
The British F-35Bs will operate off the new Queen Elizabeth-class of aircraft carriers and air bases, including Lakenheath alongside the U.S. F-35s slated to start arriving in 2021.