493rd Fighter Squadron Awarded The 2019 Raytheon Trophy as USAF’s Top Air Superiority Squadron

An F-15C Eagle assigned to the 493rd Fighter Squadron taxis on the flightline in support of exercise Point Blank 19-8 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Nov. 14, 2019 The purpose of Point Blank is to exercise large force capabilities that incorporate current and future wartime scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Madeline Herzog)

It’s the fourth straight year that the trophy is awarded to one of the squadrons based at RAF Lakenheath.

The U.S. Air Force 493rd Fighter Squadron “Grim Reapers”, the only F-15C squadron in Europe, has been recognized the 2019 Raytheon Trophy as top Air Superiority Squadron. The announcement represents the sixth time the Reapers win the trophy since it was established in 1953 and the fourth straight year that the trophy is awarded to one of the 48th Fighter Wing’s squadrons, based at RAF Lakenheath, UK.

The latest editions were awarded to the Reapers in 2016, to the “Bolars” of the 492nd FS in 2017 and to the “Panthers” of the 494th FS in 2018. It’s worth noting that the Bolars and the Panthers fly the F-15E Strike Eagle.

The Raytheon Trophy is awarded annually to the top air-superiority and air-defense squadron in the Air Force. Nominees are graded on air-defense and air-superiority mission performance, operational mission performance, organizational readiness inspection results, training exercise participation, unit and individual achievements and flight safety.

The trophy was instituted by the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1953 as Hughes Achievement Award and became soon known as the highest Air Force award for air defense units. The award changed name in Raytheon Trophy or Raytheon Achievement Award in 1997 after Raytheon bought part of Hughes’ defense business.

File photo of the 2016 edition of the Raytheon trophy presented to the 493rd Fighter Squadron during a celebration at the Duxford Imperial War Museum, England, May 13, 2017. The 493rd FS received the trophy as the U.S. Air Force’s top fighter squadron, and previously won the award in 1997, 1999, 2007 and 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)

Initially, only Fighter Interceptor Squadrons were allowed to participate. In 1970 the competition was opened to any squadron performing air defense as their primary mission and finally, a few years ago, was opened to all fighter squadrons. The first editions of the award used different trophies every year. Since 1963 the hand-hammered silver trophy is retained for one year by the winner and is then passed on to the next one.

During the recent years, F-15 squadrons often celebrated the award with spectacular videos of their flight operations, giving aviation lovers all over the world a glimpse in their everyday life as they train with the mighty Eagle.

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About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.