The 493rd Fighter Squadron and its F-15C Eagles depart Europe

A fixture of US air defence in Europe for more than a generation, the departure of the Grim Reapers’ F-15 fighters marks the end of an era. Bob Archer reports

“In recent years, Lakenheath has permitted pilots to enjoy ‘Free Fly Friday’ where they could demonstrate ‘sporty’ departures”.

Celebrating the retirement of the air superiority role by the USAF in Europe after 45 years, F-15C 86-0172 departs Lakenheath on April 21, 2022 for the final operational sortie. The two hour and 15 minute flight included low level passes through the Lake District and North Wales. Bob Archer

At 11.45am local time on April 27, 2022, the final four McDonnell-Douglas F-15C Eagles of the 493rd Fighter Squadron ‘Grim Reapers’ departed RAF Lakenheath and flew west to Barnes Municipal Airport, Massachusetts. The aircraft were 86-0160, 86-0171, 86-0178 (all unmarked) and 86-0172, which was decorated with special livery to commemorate 45 years of Eagle air defense operations in Europe.

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