Lakenheath’s On-Call F-15s Respond to Rapid Demands for Deployments

An F-15C Eagle flies over an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia in honor of the 493rd Fighter Squadron assumption of command for incoming commander Lt. Col. Anthony May during a mission supporting ongoing theater operations. Courtesy photo.

The 76 F-15Es and F-15Cs from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, are often the Air Force’s first call for combat aircraft to rapidly deploy to the Middle East, and their deployment earlier this year was a clear example of that.

Early this year, the Air Force gave the wing less than two weeks notice to deploy F-15Cs from the 493rd Fighter Squadron to the Middle East to support Operation Inherent Resolve—the ongoing air war against the Islamic State. The Air Force had pulled its F-22s from the region as the service was working to increase the Raptor fleet’s readiness and change its basing at home following a hurricane that struck Tyndall AFB, Fla.

Air Force Magazine reported at the time that Air Force Central Command requested additional “defensive counter air assets” based on the current situation in the region.

Col. William Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath, said the short window from deployment to “get out the door” was much shorter than combat units typically get before a deployment. As an illustration of how unexpected the deployment was, the 493rd FS conducted a change of command ceremony during a combat flight, as opposed to inside a hangar at the home base.

“Our operations tempo is really high, and part of that is the fact of the amount of combat airpower we have at RAF Lakenheath, and the fact that we serve, on a day-to-day basis, the European Command and quite often the Central Command as well,” Marshall said.

The F-15s were able to respond and conduct a successful deployment based on their constant state of high readiness, Marshall said.

“One of the things about the neighborhood in which we live, we live in that constant state of readiness of go, be ready to fight tonight, to go be ready and assure our allies and adversaries in the region,” Marshall said. “So, based on that, the ability to get out the door and make that happen was relatively easy.”

Since returning home, the squadron has taken a rest, reconstituted, and returned to training to stay current in all its mission sets, he said.