On August 11th 2020 F-15C Eagles of the 493rd Fighter Squadron ‘Grim reapers’ based at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom conducted Surge Ops an exercise that sees a massive increase in flying operations over a 48 hour period 2 to 3 times per year. The F-15s would normally do 2 sorties per day with missions lasting 45 minutes to an hour. During Surge ops however the Reapers would perform missions 3 to 4 hours long returning to base on multiple occasions to hot pit for fuel with an engine still running. Once they had their fuel they would launch again. It appeared that most of the missions were kept local using RAF Holbeach Range in Lincolnshire for dry runs using the gun followed by a bit of general handling before returning to base. The purpose of the exercise is to allow the pilots to maintain a state of combat readiness as they could be called upon at any time anywhere in the world to serve their country when it is needed most.
The Eagles performed 4 separate missions during my trip there and on each occasion returned several times for fuel so it was a very busy day for us UK spotters!! I was able to capture photographs from various locations around the base thanks in part to them having to use different areas of the field than usual to conduct their operations.
In addition to Surge Ops we were also fortunate to have a flight of Saudi Air Force F-15SA Advanced Eagles. RETRO71-74 made their way to Bangor from Warner Robbins AFB, Georgia on August 10th before making the Atlantic Crossing accompanied by GOLD21 a KC-10A 85-0032 of the 305th Air Mobility Wing based at Maguire AFB, New Jersey. The Advanced Eagles arrived to Lakenheath at around 19:20 from Bangor due to heavy fog causing a delay of over 2 hours for their departure. They left Lakenheath at 08:30 on August 15th accompanied by GOLD23 a KC-135R 63-8003of the 141st Air Refuelling Squadron Maguire AFB, New Jersey to make their final flight to their new home at King Khalid Air Base, Saudi Arabia.
All photographs taken by Gav Brudenell
Article by Gav Brudenell