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The 493rd Fighter Squadron (493rd FS), nicknamed the Grim Reapers, is part of the United States Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing located at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, United Kingdom. The 493rd is currently not equipped with any aircraft but is expected to receive the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II in late 2022. Between 1993 and 2022 it operated the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle, providing air-to-air offensive and defensive support for United States and NATO operations. The squadron has earned multiple commendations and awards, including the Air Force Association's Hughes Trophy in 1997 and 1999[5] and the 2007, 2014, 2016 and 2019 Raytheon Trophies, for being recognized as the top fighter squadron in the United States Air Force.

493rd Fighter Squadron
The 493rd's markings on the tail of the first F-35A to be delivered to the squadron in 2022
Active15 Jan 1941 – 7 Nov 1945
10 July 1952 – 18 Dec 1992
1 Jan 1994 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part ofUnited States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa
Garrison/HQRAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom
Nickname(s)The Grim Reapers[1]
The Roosters (1956–1992)[2]
Motto(s)Latin: Mors Inimicus
("Death to the Enemy")
EngagementsEuropean Theater of Operations
War in Kosovo
Global War on Terror[3]
DecorationsDistinguished Unit Citation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Belgian Fourragère[3]
493d Fighter Squadron emblem (approved 20 August 2003)[3]
493d Tactical Fighter Squadron emblem
56th Bombardment Squadron emblem (approved 24 December 1941)[4]
Squadron tail codesI7 (Jan 1941 – Nov 1945)
LS (Mar 1970 – Dec 1971)
LK (Dec 1971 – July 1972)
LN (July 1972 – present)


World War II

Activated as a Southeastern Air District Army Air Corps training squadron, equipped with a variety of second-line aircraft, both single and twin engine, preparing its pilots and maintenance crews for eventual combat. After the Pearl Harbor Attack, the squadron flew antisubmarine patrols from March to April 1942. Resumed aircrew training, many of the group's members went on to serve in squadrons stationed in Europe and the Pacific theaters.

P-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt 44-33204 of the 493rd FS, 1944
P-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt 44-33204 of the 493rd FS, 1944

Eventually coming under the AAF III Fighter Command in 1944, trained replacement pilots with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, Converted in January 1944 to an operational fighter squadron. Deployed to the European Theater of Operations, being assigned to the IX Fighter Command in England, March 1944.

Almost immediately after their arrival, the squadron began a rigorous training program, flying dive-bombing, glide bombing, night flying, low-level navigation, smoke laying, reconnaissance, and patrol convoy sorties. Over the next two months, the number of sorties steadily increased and the squadron flew its first combat mission on 20 April 1944, an uneventful fighter sweep of the occupied French coast.

Assisted the Normandy invasion by dropping bombs on bridges and gun positions, attacking rail lines and trains, and providing visual reconnaissance reports. Moved to France in mid-June 1944, supporting ground operations of Allied forces moving east across northern France throughout the war: primarily providing support for the United States First Army. Eventually was stationed in Occupied Germany on V-E Day.

On 5 July 1945, the squadron arrived in Laon, France. After a few weeks back in France the squadron received orders to return to the US. With many of the members separating at port, those remaining set up the headquarters at Seymour Johnson Field, North Carolina and was programmed for deployment to Okinawa to take part in planned Invasion of Japan. Training discontinued after Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the sudden end of the Pacific War.

Two months later on 7 November 1945, the squadron inactivated as part of the massive postwar draw down.

Cold War

F-84G Thunderjets of the 493d and 494th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons[note 1]
F-84G Thunderjets of the 493d and 494th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons[note 1]

The squadron was reactivated in 1952 as a NATO Fighter-Bomber squadron stationed in France. Equipped initially with Republic F-84G Thunderjets, upgraded in 1954 to North American F-86F Sabre aircraft. conducted operational readiness exercises and tactical evaluations. Honing bombing and gunnery skills, the squadron frequently deployed to Wheelus Air Base, Libya for training.

Then in late 1956 the squadron upgraded to the North American F-100D Super Sabre. However, the nuclear-weapon-capable F-100 caused disagreements with France concerning atomic storage and custody issues within NATO, resulting in a decision to remove Air Force atomic-capable units from French soil. On 15 January 1960, the squadron and its parent 48th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to RAF Lakenheath, UK.

Between 1960 and 1972, the squadron's F-100 fleet maintained its readiness by participating in a number of USAFE and NATO exercises training to react to possible aggression from the Soviet Union. They underwent a series of NATO tactical evaluations. The squadron conducted several deployments to Turkey, Italy, Spain, and across the United Kingdom.

Beginning in late 1971, the squadron started its conversion to the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, with the aircraft being transferred from the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing 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 Wing further recoded to "LN".

General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark 70-2397 of the 493rd TFS, departing Hahn Air Base, Germany, 1986
General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark 70-2397 of the 493rd TFS, departing Hahn Air Base, Germany, 1986

The F-4's service with squadron was short as Operation Ready Switch transferred the F-4Ds to the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing at Nellis Air Force Base Nevada. The 474th sent their General Dynamics F-111As to the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, and the 347th sent their F-111Fs to Lakenheath in early 1977. Unlike the previous F-4 transition, the F-111 change took place quickly and without any significant problems.[clarification needed What significant problems occurred with the transition to the F-4?] Almost immediately after changing aircraft, the squadron began a series of monthly exercises and deployments that took the Liberty Wing to Italy, Iran, Greece, and Pakistan.

The 48th Wing also participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the air raid on Tripoli, Libya on 14 and 15 April 1986. It flew combat missions in Southwest Asia from January to February 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm.

The 493rd was redesignated as the 493rd Fighter Squadron on 1 October 1991.[3] The 493rd FS was inactivated as a F-111F unit on 18 December 1992.[3]

Eagle (1993–2022)

McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle 84-0027 of the 493rd FS, 2017[note 2]
McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle 84-0027 of the 493rd FS, 2017[note 2]

The unit began working up as a McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle squadron, receiving their first two jets, F-15C 86-0164 and F-15D 86-0182, on 15 November 1993 from Bitburg Air Base, Germany.[6] The change from the F-111F to the Eagle marked the first time that the squadron had flown a specifically air-to-air weapon system, after flying for more than 50 years with an air-to-ground mission. The squadron received the last production block of new F-15 Eagles. The 493rd Fighter Squadron was reactivated on 1 January 1994.[3] The Grim Reapers received the rest of their 18 assigned Eagles from Langley AFB and Eglin AFB, with the last one (86-0160) arriving on 22 July 1994.[6]

In 1998, the 493rd FS received another six F-15Cs, increasing the squadron size to 24 aircraft. These came from the 53rd Fighter Squadron based at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, due to it being inactivated because of the USAF consolidating its squadrons.[6][7]

On 3 August 2000, F-15C 86-0173 was written off after crashing 13 miles NE of Rachel, Nevada, during a Green Flag Exercise – the pilot safely ejected.[8]

On 26 March 2001, two F-15Cs from the 493rd FS (86-0169 and 86-0180) crashed into Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms mountain range, both pilots died in the crash.[9][10][11]

In June 2008, the Grim Reapers were selected as the 2007 Raytheon Trophy winners, the first time in 10 years they had been recognised as the best fighter squadron in the USAF.[12]

The squadron participated in Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya in March 2011, along with numerous deployments to Southwest Asia supporting air expeditionary units as part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism and as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.[3]

In January 2015, the squadron was named the best fighter squadron in the Air Force, earning the Raytheon Trophy for 2014.[13]

On 13 May 2017, the 493rd FS were awarded the 2016 Raytheon Trophy at the Imperial War Museum Duxford.[14]

In April 2020, the Grim Reapers were awarded the 2019 Raytheon Trophy.[15] On 15 June 2020, F-15C 86-0176 crashed into the North Sea during a training mission, killing the pilot.[16]

During the prelude to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Grim Reapers deployed eight F-15C/Ds to Łask Air Base, Poland, in February 2022 to perform NATO enhanced Air Policing (eAP).[17] It was the last NATO mission the squadron undertook with the Eagle.[18]


In 2022, the 493rd FS will inactivate after its fleet of F-15Cs and Ds return to the United States in preparation to re-equip and reactivate with the F-35A Lightning II.[19][20] The 493rd's future F-35A flagship (19-5493) was delivered to RAF Lakenheath on 15 April 2022.[21]


Activated on 15 January 1941
Redesignated 56th Bombardment Squadron (Dive) on 28 August 1942
Redesignated 493d Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 10 August 1943
Redesignated 493d Fighter Squadron, Single Engine on 30 May 1944
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
Activated on 10 July 1952
Redesignated 493d Tactical Fighter Squadron on 8 July 1958
Redesignated 493d Fighter Squadron on 1 October 1991
Inactivated on 18 December 1992


Attached to 48th Fighter Wing (Provisional), 2 September 1990 – 15 March 1991; 7440th Composite Wing, September – December 1991






Explanatory notes
  1. Both aircraft are Republic F-84G-1-RE Thunderjets. Serial 51-890 is from the 494th Fighter-Bomber Squadron and 51-830 is from the 493d. Note the Pierced Steel Planking used for the parking apron as concrete pads have not yet been poured. Both aircraft were eventually sold to the Belgian Air Force as Serials FZ-175 and FZ-199. FZ-175 was destroyed on 25 May 1955 at Sylt, West Germany.
  2. The two green stars on the nose relate to a Mirage F1 and a MiG-23 which this Eagle shot down during 'Desert Storm' while operated by the 53rd TFS.
  1. Bradley, Capt Kevin (19 June 2008). "493rd FS awarded Raytheon Trophy". U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  2. "48th Fighter Bomber Wing 1956-1958 / 48th Tactical Fighter Wing 1956-1972". North American F-100 Super Sabre. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  3. Dollman, TSG David (21 October 2016). "Factsheet 493 Fighter Squadron (USAFE)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  4. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 594-595
  5. No byline (7 May 2011). "493rd Fighter Squadron (493rd FS)". globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  6. "493rd F.S." final-approach.nl. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  7. "NSIAD-96-82 Air Force Aircraft: Consolidating Fighter Squadrons Could Reduce Costs" (PDF). United States General Accounting Office. May 1996. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  8. "Incident McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle 86-0173, 03 Aug 2000". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  9. "Accident McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle 86-0169, 26 Mar 2001". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  10. "Accident McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle 86-0180, 26 Mar 2001". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  11. "Crash controller 'partly blamed'". BBC News. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  12. Bradley, Kevin (18 June 2008). "493rd FS awarded Raytheon Trophy". Royal Air Force Lakenheath. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  13. O'Shea, SRA Erin (29 January 2015). "Lakenheath's 493rd FS awarded 2014 Raytheon Trophy". 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  14. Mayfield, Malcolm (16 May 2017). "Reapers receive Raytheon Trophy". Royal Air Force Lakenheath. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  15. Everstine, Brian W. (20 April 2020). "Lakenheath Eagles Take Home Raytheon Trophy, Again". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  16. "North Sea US jet crash: Pilot found dead". BBC News. 15 June 2020. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  17. "Worldwide movements by USAF fighters and bombers". Scramble.nl. 11 February 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  18. "The 493rd Fighter Squadron Completes It's [sic] Last NATO Mission With F-15's". Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. 28 February 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  19. ""Just a nice Picture...!"". Scramble. 12 November 2021. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  20. "493rd Celebrates Last F-15C DCC Ceremony". Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. 11 November 2021. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  21. Cenciotti, David (19 April 2022). "493rd and 495th Fighter Squadrons Have Received Their Flagship F-35A Aircraft". The Aviationist. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  22. Station number in Anderson.
  23. Station number in Johnson.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website https://www.afhra.af.mil/.

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