Washington: The US plans to shut down 15 military bases across Europe, US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel has said. According to the Pentagon, the move will save around $500 million a year, and comes as the US military seeks to shift its attention towards Asia, BBC reported Thursday.
However, the US has named RAF Lakenheath to be the first permanent European base for the F-35 fighter aircraft. The US currently has more than 60,000 troops stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany, Italy and Britain. This troop number will remain the same, as the US ramps up rotations within Europe for training.
Many of the closures would affect smaller bases that were remnants of the Cold War. The US officials have also finalised plans to reduce about 500 military personnel from the Lajes military base in the Azores islands, which drew opposition from Portugal.
The changes will also mean a net reduction of about 2,000 US personnel in Britain in the coming years. In Britain, the US Air Force will leave RAF Mildenhall in the county of Suffolk and RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth in the county of Cambridgeshire.
Hagel said that he understood it would mean job losses and thanked those who had supported the US Air Force. "I know that this will result in a reduction of (the) host nations' workforce at some locations.
I value the tremendous support they provided us for decades," he said. Other European countries where US military bases will be closed include Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.