- The last two F-15Cs of the 493rd Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath flew the famous Mach Loop for the last time.
- The jets will soon return to the US, some for the National Guard and some for the “Boneyard.”
On April 21, 2022, the last two F-15Cs of the 493d FS “Grim Reapers” made one last flight on the Mach Loop.
These planes will leave Lakenheath this week to return to the United States. From there, the newer airframes will remain in service with National Guard squadrons, while the others will likely end up at the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.
The squadron has already received its first F-35A, the flagship aircraft that arrived in the UK alongside the 495th FS command aircraft, but before closing the F-15 chapter, the Grim Reapers made one last low-level foray through the LFA (Low Flying Area) 7, with two Eagles making four incredible low level passes that were recorded by our friend Ben Ramsay at UK Aviation Movies.
“They were always THE jets to catch low level. I’ve been to Mach Loop many times and seen these wonderful jets and their super skilled pilots passing their jets through the Welsh Valleys. But today was a very special day,” said Ben. describing the video he posted on YouTube.
The two aircraft, callsign REAPER 01 (No. 86-0172, with a special tail for 45 years in Europe) and REAPER 02 (No. 86-0171), made an initial “medium” altitude pass before descending to low level for several passes.
“As you can see in the video, the pilots did a lazy turn at 2-3000ft to begin their final farewell. Tears welled up in my eyes and I’m not afraid to admit it.” After that, the two Eagles split into individual ships and “in true Grim Reaper fashion” flew four passes each: “some of the best passes I’ve seen in the 13 years I’ve been shooting these guys at low level.” “.
The footage is excellent for several reasons: the maneuverability despite the three fuel tanks, the aggressive turns of REAPER 02, the impressive environment, and the final climb.
According to Ben, after the Mach Loop “activity,” the two Eagles retreated at Corris Corner and climbed to 14,000 feet to return to Lakenheath once more via the Lichfield Corridor. Interestingly, the lead aircraft carried the Welsh flag which was presented to one of the low-level local photographers the following day.
“Thank you to the F-15 crew that day for bringing these amazing aircraft to Wales, and to the maintainers for bringing them here. You made our day. It won’t be the same without you.”