The U.S. Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing revealed the first of three “heritage” F-15s during an unveiling ceremony on January 31st at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. Lakenheath has been the ‘Liberty Wing’s’ home since their arrival back in January, 1960 when they were still flying F-100D Super Sabres. The Wing has been flying F-15s since the early 1990s, and is now comprised of two F-15E Strike Eagle squadrons (492nd FS and 494th FS) and one of F-15C Eagles (493rd FS).
The first of the Wing’s aircraft to receive a heritage scheme was F-15E 97-219 of the 492nd FS, which is now painted in markings reminiscent of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolts which the unit flew to great effect in WWII. Designated as the 48th Fighter-Bomber Group in the U.S. Army Air Forces at that time, they flew P-47s in support of operations in Europe, including the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944, in which the group flew nearly 2,000 sorties, dropped around 500 tons of bombs and fired over 160,000 rounds of ammunition.
“This heritage project is about the 48th Fighter Wing legacy, and more specifically the wing’s support to the D-Day invasion during World War II,” said Col. Will Marshall, 48th Fighter Wing commander. It is also a way for Liberty Wing airmen to witness a piece of that history.
“It’s kind of a mesh of the old with the new; it’s a P-47 and F-15 hybrid,” said Tech. Sgt. Casey Cheff, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Corrosion Control Section non-commissioned officer in-charge. “We had 25 designs we thought of and managed to work that down to three. It ended up being a great opportunity for training our crew.”
Many of the Airmen involved were able to use skills not fully employed during normal F-15 painting procedures. Those overseeing the job viewed it as a good chance to test their team’s capabilities and learn.
“I loved this project,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Campbell, 48th EMS heritage jet dayshift lead. “We wanted the paint to look its best, and the finesse in making sure everything was perfect was the biggest challenge. The Airmen feel strongly about this project too, and it was a good experience for all of us.”
A checkered pattern on the nose, black stripes down the wings, and several national insignia emblems of WWII vintage, and a Statue of Liberty motif on the tail were several major elements of the paint job according to Cheff. More than 640 man-hours, across 15 days and $15,000 worth of painting equipment went into the process.
“We took our time to make sure we got every little detail right,” Campbell said. “We got to work on something new and interesting that tied back to our history in World War II. Our Airmen like a good challenge, and it’s something that will represent the Liberty Wing, past and present.”