US 'to move' 1,000 RAF base jobs

More than 1,000 US forces personnel may move out of a English base after a plan was presented to military bosses to consolidate forces "south of the Alps".

The US military says it is focusing on moving its special forces nearer the Middle East and Africa.

The 352nd Special Operations Group at RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, is key to the strategy, says the US military.

But there are concerns about the knock-on effect on the local economy of so many personnel being moved out.

Marine General James Jones, a top US commander in Europe, says current threats come from the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Africa.

He said: "We are looking for a position south of the Alps to better place our centre of mass for special operations."

A mixed reaction is reported from local people in Suffolk with some welcoming the move as an opportunity for a commercial airport to set up at the base.

Aerospace firm Marshall of Cambridge has been linked with a move there.
The firm is considering several new locations after Cambridge City Council designated airport land it owns for new housing.
Others say the departure would mean millions of pounds being taken out of the local economy.

Councillor Terry Waters, of Forest Heath District Council, said: "It must be a devastatingly worrying prospect for local people who work at the base and for businesses supplying the Americans who live around here.

"Our first step is to put a hold on building houses for them.

"It would, however, be beneficial if someone like Marshalls was to move to the base and set up a commercial airport."

The group which may be moved accounts for about 25% of the 8,000-strong roll call at the US bases at Mildenhall and nearby Lakenheath where 50% of the people are civilians.

The base is home to a fighter refuelling squadron, deals with 30,000 transport and passenger flights a year and has a very large fire service.

A £30m runway has just been completed and US base leaders say they are at RAF Mildenhall to stay.

The size of the plan means the withdrawal is likely to be some way off, a spokesman said.

Doesnt appear to be a good week for the communities formed around RAF bases.


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