- 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, with some going to the National Guard and others to the “Boneyard”.
On April 21, 2022, the last two F-15Cs of the 493d FS “Grim Reapers” performed a final flight in the Mach Loop.
Those jets are due to 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 in Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
The squadron has already received its first F-35A, the flagship aircraft that arrived in the UK alongside the 495th FS commander aircraft, but before closing the F-15 chapter, the Grim Reapers made one last low-level sortie. through LFA (Low Flying Area) 7, with two Eagles making four incredible low-level passes that were captured on tape by our friend Ben Ramsay at UK Aviation Movies.
“They’ve always been the jets to get low level. Many times I’ve been on the Mach Loop and caught these wonderful jets and their super skilled pilots flying 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 (#86-0172 — 45 years old in Europe’s special tail) and REAPER 02 (#86-0171) made an initial “medium” altitude pass before descending at low level for several passes.
“As you can see in the video, the riders took a lazy turn from 2 to 3,000 feet to begin their final farewell. It brought tears to my eyes, and I’m not afraid to admit it.” After that, the two Eagles split up into single ships and “in true Grim Reapers style” made four passes each: “some of the best passes I’ve seen in the 13 years I’ve been shooting these low-level guys”.
The footage is great for several reasons: the maneuverability despite three fuel tanks, the aggressive cornering of the REAPER 02, the stunning scenery and the final climb.
According to Ben, after the “activity” of the Mach Loop, the two Eagles left 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 next day.
“Thanks to the F-15 crew on the day for bringing these amazing jets to Wales and the maintainers for bringing them here. You made our day. It won’t be the same without you.”