RAF Mildenhall: US Air Force plans expansion

CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft
Image caption The Osprey can perform vertical take-offs and then its rotors tilt to allow it to fly like an aeroplane

The United States Air Force is expanding its operations at a base in Suffolk.

RAF Mildenhall is due to take delivery of 10 CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and 12 MC-130J Commando II fixed-wing planes.

The USAF said up to 900 extra personnel and family members would be expected to arrive as part of its plans.

The first aircraft will be delivered this month and all 22 are expected to be based at RAF Mildenhall by 2018.

The Osprey can take-off and land vertically like a helicopter, and then its rotors tilt round to allow it to fly like a aeroplane.

It provides transport for ground troops, while the Commando refuels other aircraft while they are in the air.

Image caption The MC-130J Commando II is a mid-air refuelling aeroplane

Schools and housing

The expansion is being made by the air force's 352nd Special Operations Group and it will require about 380 extra serving personnel.

Col Christopher Ireland, commander of the group, said: "It's been almost six years since we've had vertical lift-off in Europe and this modernisation of the force improves our efficiency and effectiveness."

He said increasing the number of aircraft and support personnel would allow the group to better support operations and improve training opportunities.

Col Ireland said improvements had been made to schools and housing on the base in recent years, although a number of service families were expected to live in the surrounding area.

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