The Raytheon Trophy is presented to the best fighter squadron in the United States Air Force (USAF). Up until 2014 competition for this highly coveted award was open to Air Superiority or “pure” fighter squadrons only. Since then USAF fighter squadrons of all kinds have been allowed to compete for the prize. The 493rd Fighter Squadron (FS) Grim Reapers along with the 493rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) of the 48th Fighter Wing (FW) based at RAF Lakenheath in the UK have won the Raytheon Trophy a staggering five times! The video linked below, uploaded to YouTube by Salmon Boss Ross, highlights the Grim Reapers and their McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15C Eagle jets during their most recent trophy-winning campaign- that for 2016.
The Grim Reapers are the only USAF squadron still flying the F-15C Eagle fighter. They also operate a few two-seater F-15Ds. The 493rd deployed for about 190 days at various locations frequented by United States Air Force Europe (USAFE) commands during 2017. Footage for the video was shot during Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada as well as at RAF Lakenheath during a 2017 weapons system evaluation program (WSEP). Most of the cockpit footage was shot using GoPro cameras by USAF Captain “Tread” Mills. The footage and editing is superb and the visuals are striking.
The 493rd can trace its lineage back to before World War II. In 1944 the squadron became part of IX Fighter Command, flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and bombing and strafing their way across occupied Europe. Inactivated after the war, the 493rd came back to life to fly Republic F-84G Thunderjets, then North American F-86 Sabres, and later F-100 Super Sabres as part of the USAFE. They then flew McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom IIs and General Dynamics F-111 Aardvarks before being equipped with F-15Cs in 1994.