Marking 20 years since the Eagle landed at Lakenheath

Lt Col John Orchard, commander of 492nd Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath
Lt Col John Orchard, commander of 492nd Fighter Squadron, RAF Lakenheath

RAF Lakenheath’s 492nd Fighter Squadron said farewell to its commander days before the 20th anniversary of getting the F-15 Eagle fighter.

Lt Col Clinton Mixon took his final flight in the supersonic fighter from Lakenheath on Friday, having been the squadron’s commander since February 2010, while the squadron has had F-15s since February 21 1992, when they began to replace the ageing, swing-wing F-111.

An F-15 flys past at RAF Lakenheath

An F-15 flys past at RAF Lakenheath

Master Sgt Robert Griffiths, unit deployment manager of the 48th Operational Support Squadron, was at Lakenheath on an earlier posting when the F-15s arrived and recalls the jump in technology.

“I’ve had a ride in an F-111 and in an F-15 and it’s the equivalent of going from black and white TV to colour,” he said.

The 492nd’s current commander, Lt Col John Orchard, predicted that the F-15 had a few more years to serve.

“It’s been around for some time. The airframe was designed in the ’70s but the engineers did a terrific job of making an aircraft that would last. The avionics are the thing that have been continuously improving.

Down from the clouds, groundcrew flock around an recently landed F-15 at RAF Lakenheath

Down from the clouds, groundcrew flock around an recently landed F-15 at RAF Lakenheath

“Our air force does a good job of keeping the avionics current so we can compete against the best.”

The 48th Fighter Wing now has 75 F-15s, of various marks, in the 492nd and 494th Fighter Squadrons and aircraft from Lakenheath have served in both Iraq wars, the Iraqi no-fly zone operation, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya.

The F-15’s electronics allow it to track aircraft ‘in the region of 100 miles away’ and the two-seater F-15E Strike Eagle’s systems enable the co-pilot to take on ground targets while the pilot targets aircraft. Its twin jet engines take the $31 million, aircraft to 1,875mph, 2.5 times the speed of sound, and up to 60,000ft.

Lt Col Clinton Mixon with his wife Lisa, and son Parker after his last flight as commander of 492nd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath

Lt Col Clinton Mixon with his wife Lisa, and son Parker after his last flight as commander of 492nd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath