Military Aviation

Lakenheath prepares to bid farewell to 493rd FS F-15Cs with “The King” Last Flight after having activated USAF first Europe-based F-35A Squadron

With the arrival of the F-35As, 493rd FS’ F-15Cs will leave for good.

The 48th Fighter Wing has activated the first US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) F-35A squadron on Oct. 1, 2021. According to a USAF news release, the 495th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed as the “Valkyries,” was activated at exactly 8:49 and 50 seconds, Friday morning, 30 years to the day since its designation as a fighter squadron.

The first F-35A is scheduled to arrive at RAF Lakenheath later this year. The base was selected to host the first US F-35A squadrons in Europe based on very close ties with the Royal Air Force (RAF), existing infrastructure, and combined training opportunities. Additionally, the a critical component in training and combat readiness for USAFE due to its excellent airspace and F-35 program partnership.

Lt. Col. Ian D. McLaughlin has assumed command as the first commander since the squadron’s inactivation in 1991. “Today is an exciting day. There has been a great deal of work done to get us this far, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done prior to getting jets this winter. The 495th has a proud history and we’re excited to take the guidon forward to start building the foundation for first USAF F-35As stationed in Europe.”

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

The new F-35 squadron will consist of 27 aircraft and roughly 60 personnel.

On Sep. 16, 2021 instead, an F-15C Eagle assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron (FS), dubbed ‘The King’, performed its final flight at RAF Lakenheath, as the following video shows. ‘The King’ was part of three jets painted in heritage colors in 2019 honoring the World War II P-47 Thunderbolt.

Noteworthy with the arrival of the F-35As, 493rd FS’ F-15Cs will leave for good. The Grim Reapers future instead is still uncertain but the unit will probably be disbanded.

The King will be assigned to the Massachusetts Air National Guard (ANG), where the 104th Fighter Wing (FW) located in Westfield already flies F-15C Eagle air superiority fighters.

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Cedrique Oldaker / U.S. Air Force

Video: Combat Aviationist

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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