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F-15 Eagle into the Sun

Lakenheath, Suffolk, United Kingdom

RAF Lakenheath is a Royal Air Force station near the town of Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. Although an RAF station, it hosts United States Air Force units and personnel. The host wing is the 48th Fighter Wing, also known as the Liberty Wing, assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe and Africa.

In 1940s, the Air Ministry selected Lakenheath as an alternative for RAF Mildenhall and used it as a decoy airfield. False lights, runways and aircraft diverted Luftwaffe attacks from Mildenhall.

Following World War II RAF Lakenheath was selected to be a heavy bomber base and preparations were made for the impending arrival of United States Air Force B-29 Superfortresses. On 27 November 1948 operational control of RAF Lakenheath was transferred from the Royal Air Force to USAFE.

By 1950, Lakenheath was one of three main operating bases for the U.S. Strategic Air Command in the UK, the others were RAF Marham and RAF Sculthorpe. A succession of bombardment squadrons and wings, 33 in all, rotated through Lakenheath, the B-29s giving way to the improved B-50 Superfortresses and then, in June 1954, B-47 Stratojets.

Today the 48th Operations Group provides five squadrons of F-15C/D/E aircraft, HH-60G helicopters, and personnel capable of accomplishing fighter and rescue operations worldwide. It prepares aircrew and support personnel to accomplish war plans and contingency operations for U.S. Air Forces Europe, U.S. European Command and NATO at a moments notice.

The 48th TFW arrived from France in the 1960s flying their North American F-100D Sabre jets. Beginning in late 1971, the 48th TFW started its conversion to the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, with the aircraft being transferred from the 81st TFW at RAF Bentwaters. The conversion to the F-4D took several years, with the last F-100 departing in August 1974. With the arrival of the Phantoms, the F-4s adopted a common tail code of "LK". This tail code lasted only a few months as in July and August 1972 the 48th TFW further recoded to "LN". In 1977 the 366 TFW flying the F-111 were stationed at Lakenheath.

RAF Lakenheath received its first McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagles in 1992. With the departure of the F-111s the 495th FS was inactivated on 13 December 1991. Shortly after the 493rd FS was also inactivated. The 493rd's arrival meant that the 48th became the largest F-15E/F-15C composite unit in the U.S. Air Force. In 2003, the 48th FW received the first of 10 new F-15Es. The aircraft were part of the final batch of F-15s expected to be ordered by the Air Force.

The first use of Lakenheath Warren as a Royal Flying Corps airfield was in World War I, when the area was made into a bombing and ground-attack range for aircraft flying from elsewhere in the area.

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