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A B-1B Lancer lands in front of spectators gathered for the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in 2006. The Air Force announced this week that the air base will no longer have permanently assigned airmen, and will only use the base when needed, on a contingency basis. The Air Tattoo, however, will still be held in 2010.
A B-1B Lancer lands in front of spectators gathered for the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in 2006. The Air Force announced this week that the air base will no longer have permanently assigned airmen, and will only use the base when needed, on a contingency basis. The Air Tattoo, however, will still be held in 2010. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
A B-1B Lancer lands in front of spectators gathered for the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in 2006. The Air Force announced this week that the air base will no longer have permanently assigned airmen, and will only use the base when needed, on a contingency basis. The Air Tattoo, however, will still be held in 2010.
A B-1B Lancer lands in front of spectators gathered for the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in 2006. The Air Force announced this week that the air base will no longer have permanently assigned airmen, and will only use the base when needed, on a contingency basis. The Air Tattoo, however, will still be held in 2010. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)
Airman 1st Class Adnardo Garcia Jr. marshalls in a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flightline here March 24. Airman Garcia Jr. is a crew chief with the 100th Aircraft Maintaince Squadron at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.
Airman 1st Class Adnardo Garcia Jr. marshalls in a KC-135 Stratotanker on the flightline here March 24. Airman Garcia Jr. is a crew chief with the 100th Aircraft Maintaince Squadron at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Meghan Geis)

RAF MILDENHALL, England — In an effort to cut costs, England’s RAF Fairford will lose its permanently assigned airmen and greatly reduce its daily operations starting next year.

For years, the west England base served as a standby airfield for bombers and other transient aircraft, including the initial wave of B-52s heading toward Iraq in March 2003. Starting in August 2010, it will be operational only when aircraft actually need it, according to 3rd Air Force officials.

As a result, the 112 airmen stationed there with the 420th Air Base Group will be relocated and the unit deactivated. The base’s capabilities will remain, but there will be no U.S. airmen there when aircraft are not passing through, said Capt. Kelley Jeter, a 3rd Air Force spokeswoman in England.

Instead, U.S. personnel will be moved onto the base to support aircraft when needed, arriving one or two days before the jet arrives, Jeter said.

The Fairford consolidation is part of a U.S. Air Forces in Europe effort to cut costs across the command’s wings and is expected to save USAFE about $16 million annually, she said.

The base boasts a 10,000-foot runway, the longest in the U.K. The runway and fuel bunkers underwent $200 million in renovations in 2002, according to Tech. Sgt. Kristina Barrett of the 501st Combat Support Wing, the unit that oversees Fairford and a handful of small bases across England.

Built in 1944 for aircraft heading to the D-Day invasion in France, Fairford has also hosted B-2 stealth bombers.

The Air Force is still determining the status of base support functions such as Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets, Jeter said. The Royal International Air Tattoo, one of the world’s largest air shows, will still take place at Fairford next summer, she said.

For Brits in the area, the base has been "a good neighbor," said Ray Theodoulou, a Gloucestershire County Council member who represents nearby Fairford village. While small in number, the base’s airmen often engaged with the local community in a variety of ways, he said. Many Air Force kids attended British schools in the area.

Economically, the loss of local jobs will have an impact on the area, Theodoulou said, though leaders here suspected such a move might come at some point.

"We’re very sad about it," Theodoulou said.

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