Saudi F-15s pit-stop in Suffolk

11/08/2020

Between December 2016 and November 2020, 82 Boeing F-15SA were delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force. 

Boeing St Louis is responsible for building multiple F-15 variants for customers including the USA, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The USAF is currently having its new F-15EX aircraft built there. Saudi Arabias' fleet of 84 F-15SAs was built in St Louis, and Qatars F-15QA are also being constructed in Missouri. As well as the F-15, Boeing St Louis is responsible for making F/A-18s and working on the US Navys MQ-25s and US Air Forces T-7A Red Hawk.

I was fortunate to catch a delivery on August 11th, when RETRO71/74 arrived from Bangor International Airport, Maine. The four jets were originally due on August 10th, but a problem delayed the delivery by 24 hours. This was lucky for me as I'd booked a hotel in the area 3 months before this event took place!

The aircraft departed Bangor with their tanker at roughly 13:30, and arrived at RAF Lakenheath at 19:24. Their tanker was a KC-10A Extender from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. 

Royal Saudi Air Force Boeing F-15SA 12-1033 RETRO71

Royal Saudi Air Force Boeing F-15SA 12-1034 RETRO72

Royal Saudi Air Force Boeing F-15SA 12-1035 RETRO73

Royal Saudi Air Force Boeing F-15SA 12-1084 RETRO74 

2 separate tankers were involved in this delivery. KC-10 85-0032 dragged all 4 aircraft from the USA to Lakenheath on August 11th. The Extender departed on August 12th, destined for Spain. August 12th also saw KC-135 63-8003 arrive from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. The aircraft left Mildenhall the next day, delivering the 4 F-15SAs to Saudi Arabia.

USAF Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 63-8003 GOLD23

USAF McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender II 85-0032 GOLD21

Following around 36 hours on the deck in Suffolk, RETRO71 flight of 4 blasted out of RAF Lakenheath on August 13th, in less than ideal conditions. They were the day's first departures. The 4 aircraft were destined for Dhahran Air Base, home of the Royal Saudi Air Forces Fighter Weapon School. I recall a rumble overhead Lakenheath on the morning of August 13th as the fighters met their tanker and passed overhead above the cloud on their way to Saudi Arabia.