The United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) is in the process of retiring its F-15C and F-15D Eagle fighters, being replaced by F-35As.
One of the units that has undergone this substitution process in recent months is the 493rd Fighter Squadron (493rd FS), nicknamed the "Grim Reapers". This unit has been stationed at the British base at RAF Lakenheath since 1960, when it was equipped with F-100 fighters. In 1971 it received the F-4D Phantom II and, after a brief service of only six years, in 1977 the 493rd FS received the F-111F Aadvark, which were replaced in 1993 by F-15C and F-15D Eagle fighters. . In 2022, the integration of the new F-35As was completed.
British photographer Elwyn Roberts published a few days ago the farewell flight of the F-15s of the 493rd FS at the Mach Loop in Wales, one of the best places in the world to see low-flying fighter planes:
In the video, Elwyn includes this excellent photo of an F-15C of the 493rd FS on its farewell flight, carrying a Welsh flag on the front of the cockpit.
I expand a detail of the photo that has caught my attention:
That eagle looks very familiar to me, since I have one just like it hanging in the room where I am writing these lines. It is the "Orzeł Biały", the White Eagle of the national coat of arms of Poland.
And what is an American fighter in the UK doing with a Polish eagle? I've been searching for information and found that la The 493rd FS's last F-15 mission with NATO was a deployment to Łask Air Base in Poland. That squadron deployed eight F-15C and D fighters on February 10, only 13 days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. You can see the commemorative patch for that mission here, which is the one that appears painted on the nose of that F-15C. A nice nod to Poland.
The patch references the name of this mission in Poland, Atlas Guardian 22, and includes the text "Reapers in Poland", which refers to that squadron's USAF nickname.
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