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
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