Final US Air Force F-15C Eagles Leave Europe

USAF McDonnell Douglas F-15C departing RAF Lakenheath
USAF McDonnell Douglas F-15C departing RAF Lakenheath (Photo: Thomas Saunders/AviationSource)

LONDON – After 45 years of F-15 Eagle operations with the U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), the final Eagles have departed RAF Lakenheath (LN) bound to the United States.

Aside from LN, the jets have been based at Spangdahlem and Bitburg in Germany and Soesterberg in the Netherlands in the past.

History of Eagles in Europe

The first F-15s based in the European theatre arrived at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, in January 1977.

They were assigned to the 525th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS), which fell under the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW).

After the bulk of the 525th TFS’s operational jets arrived on 27th April 1977, the squadron became the first operationally ready F-15 squadron in Europe on 26th May 1977.

By December 1977, the 22nd TFS and 53rd TFS had also received their F-15As. At this point, the 36th TFW had 79 operational F-15As.

The 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron became the next squadron in Europe to receive the F-15. The last of their operational F-15As arrived at Soesterberg Air Base, Netherlands, in January 1979.

The F-15s replaced their McDonnell Douglas F-4E fleet.

Soesterberg based F-15Cs.
Soesterberg based F-15Cs. (Photo: US Air Force/WikiMedia)

All four squadrons started receiving F-15Cs in 1980, eventually replacing the F-15As.

The 32nd TFS was inactivated on 19 April 1994, this followed the inactivation of the 525th inactivation on 1 April 1992.

With the closure of Bitburg Air Base in 1994, the 53rd Fighter Squadron (FS) moved to Spangahlem Air Base with their F-15s and fell under the 52nd Operations Group.

The 22nd FS also moved to Spangahelm, however, they became an F-16 squadron.

Finally, in March 1999, as part of the inactivation of the 53rd FS, the F-15Cs moved to the 493rd Fighter Squadron, which falls under the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath.

The Future…

Whilst the F-15Cs leaving Lakenheath marks the end of the Eagle in Europe, the design still lives on with the Strike Eagles, also based at Lakenheath, with the 492nd and 494th Fighter Squadrons.

The F-15Cs are being replaced with fifth-generation fighters, in the form of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A.

Not only will the 493rd FS reform with them, but the 495th Fighter Squadron has also been formed at RAF Lakenheath, operating the jet.

These squadrons are the first USAF Squadrons in Europe to operate the jet.

Lockheed Martin F-35A arriving into RAF Lakenheath.
USAF Lockheed Martin F-35A from the 495th Fighter Squadron. (Photo: Thomas Saunders/AviationSource)

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