On the 21st February 1992 a new era of aircraft operations commenced at RAF Lakenheath with the arrival of the first F-15E Strike Eagle. Hard to believe that the F-111F's of the 48th Fighter Wing left these shores 20 years ago.
Like it's predecessor, during its time at RAF Lakenheath the F-15E has been involved in numerous U.S. and NATO Operations. The last of which was Operation Odyssey Dawn/Operation Unified Protector over the skies of Libya in 2011.
Although the U.S. combat operations with strike aircraft only lasted a few days unfortunately one of Lakenheaths F-15E's was lost during combat operations over Libya. The crew ejected safely and were rescued by helicopter.
Below is a list of U.S. and NATO missions the F-15E's have supported over the last 20 years
The 48th Fighter Wing comprises 3 combat ready squadrons, the 492nd and 494th are F-15E Strike Eagle squadrons and the 493rd are an F-15C/D squadron. The 48th FW also houses the 56th Rescue Squadron flying the HH-60G combat search and rescue helicopters. The 48th FW is the largest composite wing in USAFE.
On 10th February 2012, clear blue skies and several centimetres of snow welcomed us at RAF Lakenheath, whilst the weather was cold we received a very warm welcome from Lt.Horn and her team from the 48th FW Public Affairs department.
Into Hanger8 and out of the biting wind and we were given the opportunity to talk to the new incoming commander of the 492nd Fighter Squadron Lt.Col. John Orchard and the 48th Operations Support Squadrons Deployment Manager Master Sgt Robert Griffith.
Lt.Col. Orchard commented that "whilst there is never a dull moment flying the F-15, going supersonic is surprisingly not that exciting its just a blip on your displays what is exciting is when you pull 'g's your body can weigh up to 9 times what it weighs as we stand here today."
With clear blue skies and the snow on the ground we were given the opportunity to take photographs of the launch of two F-15E's from the 494th FS, in true style they performed an unrestricted take-off, sadly they left the going vertical part till outside the range of even the longest lens !
The 492nd Fighter Squadron said goodbye to Lt.Col. Clinton A Mixon and after his final flight in the rear of F-15E 91-0332/LN he received a traditional welcome home being greeted by colleagues, family and the fire department!. The celebratory flight had left Lakenheath whilst we had been in the hanger8 with the new Boss. They arrived back with a nice run and break followed by an overshoot of the aircraft carrying Lt.Col. Mixon.
The plan had been for the aircraft to taxi through an arc of water produced by the fire department, however, with temperatures well below freezing the water arc was not sent over the aircraft, but the outgoing Boss was suitably soaked with fire extinguishers and champagne.
Macks Aviation would like to extend their thanks and appreciation to all those at RAF Lakenheath who made this article possible and for the very warm welcome on such a cold icy day.