The United States Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing announced yesterday that the 495th Fighter Squadron, the first overseas-based USAF F-35 squadron, will be named the “Valkyries”. The name selection was carried out with input from the public, with 700 different names suggested. This was then narrowed down to five choices for opinion polling, with “Valkyries” beating “Archangels”, “Sabres”, “Sentinels”, and “Swordsmen”.
In the press statement announcing the naming, the 48th Fighter Wing said that the location of RAF Lakenheath, the 495 FS’ future home base, in the east of England steeped it in extensive Viking and Norse history, making naming the squadron after the female figures of Norse mythology that decide who lives or dies in battle (and then taking half of those who die to Valhalla) a perfect fit. The suitability is only compounded by the squadron’s Latin motto of “Mala Ipsa Nova”, or “Bad News Itself”.
“‘Valkyries’ epitomizes the force’s move toward more inclusivity and equally represents the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s air superiority,” said Lt. Col. Ian McLaughlin, the incoming 495 FS commander. “I am honored to be the first commander of the initial U.S. Air Force overseas-based F-35A unit. Like the Valkyries themselves, we’ll be vital to determining the fate of our adversaries in the battlespace.”
48th Fighter Wing commander Col. Jason Camilletti expressed his appreciation for the “overwhelming” support received from both the local community and the US, adding: “Basing F-35s at RAF Lakenheath will be a game changer as it will allow us to further advance interoperability with our European teammates, and is a visible demonstration that we and all of NATO will continue to own the skies.”
The first incarnation of the 495th Fighter Squadron, the 495th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, carried out anti-submarine patrols on the East Coast of the US from 1942 to 1943 as the 88th Bomber Squadron (Dive), with its redesignation coming alongside its change of roles to provide replacement pilot training for the P-47 Thunderbolt in 1943 until its inactivation on 1 April 1944. The second incarnation of the 495 FS, the 495th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was stood up on 1 April 1977, this time as a pilot training squadron for the F-111 Aardvark.
The “Thundervarks” participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, however, it had the sole American casualties of the 1986 bombings of Libya, with both pilot Capt. Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci and weapons systems officer Capt. Paul F. Lorence, of F-111F Karma 52, killed in action after being shot down over the Gulf of Sidra. The squadron would then participate in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm before their inactivation on 13 December 1991.
The reactivation of the 495 FS was announced on 15 September 2020, alongside the call for names. The first F-35As to be based at RAF Lakenheath are expected to arrive in the second half of 2021. The USAF plans for the 48th Fighter Wing to eventually have a second F-35A squadron based at RAF Lakenheath alongside the 495 FS.