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A KC-135 Stratotanker takes off Nov. 12, 2014, from RAF Mildenhall, England, as part of a three-ship package. Air Force photo by Gina Randall.

The Defense Department on Thursday announced plans to close RAF Mildenhall, England, and return it, along with 14 other sites across Europe, back to their host nations under the European Infrastructure Consolidation plan. The base is currently home to 15 KC-135 tankers assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the only permanently assigned aerial refueling unit in Europe. Under the new plan, those tankers and the 352nd Special Operations Wing will move to Germany, while the assigned RC-135 Rivet Joints will move elsewhere within the United Kingdom, according to a Jan. 8 US European Command release. Overall, a total of three installations will be divested in the UK, including the realignment of Mildenhall missions and the consolidation of intelligence centers at RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth at RAF Croughton, states a US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa release. “We understand these changes will have substantial impacts on the local areas, but we are dedicated to working closely with our community neighbors, defense partners, personnel, and families to ease the impact of these transitions as much as possible,” said Gen. Frank Gorenc, USAFE-AFAFRICA commander. “These infrastructure consolidations will allow [the command] to better meet alliance mission requirements.”