494th Fighter Squadron [494th FS]
The 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, is the first and only United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) unit to receive the F-15E Strike Eagle. Both the 492nd Fighter Squadron and the 494th Fighter Squadron operate the F-15E.
Constituted 57th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 20 Nov 1940, the Squadron was activated on 15 Jan 1941. It was redesignated: 57th Bombardment Squadron (Dive) on 28 Aug 1942; 494th Fighter Bomber Squadron on 10 Aug 1943; 494th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine, on 30 May 1944, and inactivated on 7 Nov 1945. Redesignated 494th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 25 Jun 1952, the unit activated on 10 Jul 1952. The squadron was redesignated the 494th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 8 Jul 1958 and the 494th Fighter Squadron on 30 Nov 1991.
The Panthers take pride in being deployed to Iceland. They were on the scene for Operation Decisive Edge over Bosnia in 1995
F-15E Strike Eagle were deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey in late 1998. The aircraft, assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, were temporarily at Incirlik as part of Operation Northern Watch. Two F-15Es from the 494th dropped 500-pound GBU-12 precision-guided munitions on an Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery site 28 January 1999. At about 3:45 p.m. Iraqi time Jan. 28, two F-15E Strike Eagle pilots conducting routine enforcement of the northern no-fly zone observed fire by an anti-aircraft artillery site north of Mosul. In self-defense, the two F-15E's dropped a total of three GBU-12s on the anti-aircraft artillery site.
In early 1999 F-15E Strike Eagles from the 494th Fighter Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England flew missions against targets in Yugoslavia March 29. Members of the 494th Fighter Squadron deployed to Aviano AB to support Operation Allied Force.
The 494th Fighter Squadron from RAF Lakenheath, England, arrived at Naval Air Station Keflavík, 02 July 1999, marking the arrival of F-15E Strike Eagles in Iceland. Normally that's an Air Combat Command mission. However, the decision was made to distribute responsibilities so USAFE squadrons would have the opportunity to learn about operations there. Ordinarily, squadrons stationed in Iceland fly the F-15C, but C model units in USAFE were committed to previous duties. Other C-model units were deployed to Operation Northern Watch in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Regarding the air defense of Iceland, there is no difference between the Strike Eagle's and the F15C's capabilities. Although the E model has the added feature of precision air-to-ground strikes, the fighter can just as easily be used for its air-to-air capabilities. Later in the month the Black Panthers were relieved by an F-15C unit from Spangdahlem AB, Germany.
The 494th Fighter Squadron's Panthers returned triumphant from 90 days at Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, as part of AEF 2. While the remainder of RAF Lakenheath was preparing to deploy as part of AEF 4, the Panthers were patrolling the southern no-fly zone over Iraq and employing ordnance when called upon. On Dec. 16, 2000, 10 aircraft from the 48th Fighter Wing took the eight-hour journey from England to Al Jaber. Joining the aircraft and aircrew were more than 200 other Lakenheath personnel in support of AEF 2. Most of the personnel thought they would be leaving the rainy, dreary weather of England behind. They were wrong. December and January are typically wet and rainy in Kuwait and this season was no exception. It's hard to believe, but it rained more than two inches in the two months. So much for the hot, arid environment.
The Panthers deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch. The OSW mission is to patrol the southern no-fly zone. With more than 200 coalition aircraft assigned to the Joint Task Force, they have successfully countered a variety of threats by flying sorties on an almost daily basis. In addition to a full-time mission over Iraq, force protection and security concerns are very high on the agenda.
On their deployment, the Panthers accomplished many firsts. Within six hours of hitting the ground, the men and women of the 494th stood-up the first-ever defensive counter air alert commitment. Standing guard, the aircraft were ready and poised to respond to any aircraft penetrating south of the 33rd parallel in violation of U.N. sanctions. Over the 90 days, the Panthers responded more than 60 times protecting Kuwait from attack. Panther crews were the first ever to use night vision goggles during actual air-to-ground delivery from an F-15E in combat.
Throughout the course of the deployment, Iraqi president Saddam Hussain began escalating his attacks on coalition aircraft. The Panthers were called upon to respond with more than 34,500 pounds of munitions destroying more than 28 targets including Iraqi aircraft, surface-to-air missile sites, radar systems, various anti-aircraft artillery sites and weapons of mass destruction facilities. With precision accuracy, all of the targets were destroyed. The Panthers were overall mission commanders to plan and execute a continuous defensive counter air mission lasting 36 hours to protect dignitaries visiting Kuwait during celebrations marking the 10th Anniversary of the end of the Gulf War.
Keeping the aircraft and aircrew flying was a group of crew chiefs, specialists, weapons loaders, inspectors, supply troops, operational support, administrative personnel and intelligence. To their credit, more than 500 sorties were flown with zero missions cancelled due to maintenance.
The men and women of the unit deployed to Al Jaber made many improvements from operating procedures to living conditions. Capt. Mark Ciero was instrumental in re-engineering the area of responsibility mission commander process. His efforts drastically reduced mission-planning time allowing aircrews to concentrate on tactics. Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hanson and Senior Airman Joshua Cochran spent countless hours of their off-duty time painting a barrier mural and building a brick patio in the maintenance area. Future Al Jaber maintainers will enjoy the fruits of their labor for years to come. In their off time, the men and women of the 494th participated in chapel events, sport, captured the basketball championship, conducted two "Big Cat" weight-lifting competitions and held three Liberty Wing events inviting not only 494th personnel, but other 48th Fighter Wing deployed members.
The accomplishments of the Panthers did not go unrecognized. Many members were awarded for their activities: Capt. Michael Messer, company grade officer of December; Tech. Sgt. Robert Webster, Staff Sgt. Mainard Cardillo and Airman 1st Class Gerald Russell, Sultan of Flight Safety award for January; Airman 1st Class Alison Carbonel, Sultan of Flight Safety award for February; 494th weapons section, Sharp Sabre Team award for February; Airman 1st Class Benjamin Moffit, Eagle Eye (Foreign Object Debris) award for February; Airman Michael Franks, Eagle Eye Award for March.
The Panthers team at home continued to fly at an increased rate continuing training and deployment preparations. The spouses of all the Panthers endured some hardships of their own and should be commended for their steadfastness. And during a visit by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, said, "The 494th has performed outstandingly here in Operation Southern Watch." The 494th Panthers continued the tradition of 48th FW excellence while deployed to AEF 2 at the tip of the spear.
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