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'Valkyries' is the new nickname for the Air Force's England-bound F-35 squadron

Three F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, fly over England in 2017. The 495th Fighter Squadron, the first U.S. Air Force overseas-based F-35A unit, which will be based at RAF Lakenheath, will be called the ''Valkyries,'' the 48th Fighter Wing said on Feb. 16, 2021.

JUSTINE RHO/U.S. AIR FORCE

By KYLE ALVAREZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 16, 2021

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — The Air Force’s first overseas-based F-35A squadron will be nicknamed the “Valkyries,” for the mythological Norse women who chose who would live or die in battle, the 48th Fighter Wing said Tuesday.

“’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 commander of the the 495th Fighter Squadron, which is expected to arrive at Lakenheath later this year.

“I am honored to be the first commander of the initial U.S. Air Force overseas-based F-35A unit. Like the Valkyries themselves, they’ll be vital to determine the fate of our adversaries in the battlefield,” he said.

The formidable Norse women who are often pictured wearing winged headdresses were the subject of German composer Richard Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries,” which was part of the soundtrack of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War film, “Apocalypse Now.”

The name, which literally means “chooser of the fallen or slain,” beat out 700 other suggested monikers in a selection process that began last fall and asked the public to help choose a winner.

Valkyries was one of just five names that were still in the running in December, together with Archangels, Sabres, Sentinels and Swordsmen.

Possible influences on the choice of Valkyries over the other four include that RAF Lakenheath is in a part of England that’s steeped in Norse and Viking history, and that F-35A pilots are said to have the power to control the skies.

The nickname given to the 495th Fighter Squadron’s predecessor, the 495th Tactical Fighter squadron, which flew F-111 Aardvarks out of Lakenheath during the Cold War, was ruled out for the new unit.

They were known as the “Thundervarks,” a name that “doesn’t really have the same stick” for a squadron of fifth-generation F-35s, 48th Fighter Wing spokesman Master Sgt. Matthew Plew told Stars and Stripes in September.

The Valkyries will have about 24 aircraft and 50 personnel, with another 600 or so associated with its aircraft maintenance unit, base officials said. Lakenheath is expected to eventually host two F-35 squadrons.

alvarez.kyle@stripes.com
Twitter: @Kal2931

The "Valkyrie" nickname given to the Air Force’s first overseas-based F-35A squadron isn't the service's first use of the legendary name. This 2003 photo taken at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, shows the only remaining XB-70 Valkyrie high-altitude bomber, a Mach-3 capable aircraft conceived for the Strategic Air Command in the 1950s. The only other XB-50 produced before funding was cut off went down after a midair collision in 1965.
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