Spangdahlem Eagles; a Lustrum
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s the F-15 Eagle was a common sight above the Eifel mountains in Germany. With three F-15 squadrons, the 36th Fighter Wing (22nd TFS, 53rd TFS and 525th TFS) hosted approximately 60 Eagles on Bitburg AB. Early 1994, following the closure of Bitburg AB, the 22nd and 53rd TFS were relocated to Spangdahlem AB, just on the other side of the Kyll river, and became part of the 52nd Fighter Wing. The 53rd was transferred in February 1994, taking its 18 F-15C/D models and personnel to Spangdahlem AB. The 22nd TFS also moved to Spangdahlem (on April 1st), however neither its personnel, nor its F-15s were transferred to the 52nd TFW. The 22d became a F-16C/D Fighting Falcon squadron, replacing the 480th TFS.
Between June and September 1997 necessary repairs on the Spangdahlems runway called for a temporary location to accommodate the 52nd FWs three squadrons. The closed airbase at Bitburg was the most logical place – only 10 miles (16 km) down the road. In September 1997 USAF departed Bitburg AB for the second and last time.
The final chapter
The 53rd Fighter Squadron stood down in 1999. The US Air Force reassigned several aircraft belonging to US Air Forces in Europe in fiscal year 1999. The moves complied with a 1996 Combat Air Forces decision to return fighter squadrons to a standard size of 24 primary assigned aircraft, and allowed USAFE fighter units to better-support normal operations during partial squadron deployments. Command fighter units were previously made up of 18 assigned aircraft. The reorganization affected Spangdahlem Air Base and the 53rd Fighter Squadron was deactivated. Six of the Eagles moved to Lakenheath’s 493rd Fighter Squadron, and the remaining aircraft were transferred to Air Combat Command. It meant the end of a long F-15 era in Germany.