The last of the 48th Fighter Wing’s Heritage F-15 aircraft is currently deployed to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, in support of NATO Air Policing operations for the region.
As explained by Master Sgt. Matthew Plew, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, in the article “The King” in the North, the F-15C Eagle, painted in the traditional allied invasion stripe scheme, ice blue tails, and the distinct markings of the 493rd Fighter Squadron is affectionately named “The King,” after Lt Col Royal ‘King’ Baker.
Baker, who became commander of the 493rd in November 1943, flew a total of 523 hours on 272 combat missions. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, an oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was credited with the destruction of three enemy aircraft, one shared destruction and one probable, during World War II.
Now, 76-years later, “The King,” still serves, a warden of the Arctic north, aloft allied skies.
“It’s a source of legacy and pride for both the operations staff and our maintainers,” said US Air Force (USAF) Lt Col Mark Perry, 493rd FS director of operations. “This jet symbolizes the Reapers, and we wear that as a badge of honor.”
Air Policing demonstrates NATO’s continued evolution of air agility capabilities and adaptation to meet new security challenges to protect all members. The USAF assumed full control of NATO’s commitment to the region October 12, 2020.
Since then, US Airmen continuously work to uphold international rule-based order, and maintain a steadfast layer of collective defense for all allied Arctic members.
“I hope when the people of Iceland see our Eagles flying, they see the commonality of NATO, and what the alliance does to provide for collective defense.” said Lt Col Anthony May, 493rd FS commander. “I am extremely proud of the work the Reapers have done to get here. Icelandic Air Policing allows us to demonstrate what air power in Europe is capable of.”
Together, the NATO alliance remains resolute to meet the peacetime preparedness requirements of all of its members with transparency, and enduring devotion to preserve sovereign airspace.
Photo credit: Master Sgt. Matthew Plew / U.S. Air Force
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