became USAFE’s first unit to transition to the F-15E Strike Eagle. The squadron was declared mission ready on 1 July 1993.
In August 1993, the 492d FS again deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey in support of Operation Provide Comfort flying over 460 missions in support of the Kurdish relief effort. In February 1994, the 492d deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy in support of Operation Deny Flight.
In the summer of 1996 some 500 people, 36 jets and tons of equipment moved to Incirlik as the 366th Wing from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, mounted the largest single unit swap out in the five-year history of Operation Provide Comfort. The 366th Wing deployment brought a force equal to nearly half of all Air Force people assigned to OPC. They replaced the 23rd Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, along with the 492nd and 493rd Fighter Squadrons from RAF Lakenheath, England.
Executing combat missions from RAF Lakenheath, the 492d Fighter Squadron set the standard for “Anywhere, Anytime”. Between March and June of 1999, 492d FS aircrews and maintainers employed the world’s premier multi-role fighter, the F-15E Strike Eagle. The Madhatters Flew 475 successful Combat missions, deployed 400 tons of bombs in an unprecedented fashion – from the deployed locale at Aviano, AB Italy, as well as from the United Kingdom. The 492d played a pivotal role in stopping the Serb offensive in Kosovo, and setting the foundation for the NATO-led international peacekeeping force into Kosovo.
Nicknamed the “Madhatters”, the squadron is known for its tradition of adopting the headgear unique to the country in which the squadron is based. Accordingly, the aircrews wore berets in France, and now in the United Kingdom, squadron aircrews wear both the Scottish Glengarry, for informal occasions, and the traditional British Bowler for formal events. The squadron emblem is also noteworthy as it depicts the versatility of this combat-proven unit. A fierce red Kestrel, a Falcon known for its tremendous flying ability, dominates the emblem. Below the Kestrel is the torch of freedom. Highlighting the 492d’s premier role in the Statue of Liberty Wing.
During the year 2000, the Madhatters experienced many successes. They were faced with an extraordinarily high operations tempo, including but not limited to, training deployments, evaluations and inspections, operational training and aircraft upgrades, and participation in public-relations events. The successes were only possible through the teamwork among maintainers, aircrew and support personnel. Throughout 2000, the squadron exceeded all mission expectations, shattering Air Force maintenance records. The Madhatter maintainers achieved an unprecedented F-15E mission-capable rate that proved to be the highest in the Air Force for any Strike Eagle unit in 2000. The squadron to flew a total of 4,514 sorties in fiscal 2000, accruing more than 7,684 flying hours – the most aggressive flying hour program seen to date at the 492nd FS.
In addition to the training missions flown at home, the Madhatters deployed to seven exercises in six countries during 2000. The 492nd FS started out the year by deploying six aircraft to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in response to Operations Deliberate Forge and Joint Guard. It was here that the 492nd FS became the first F-15E unit to use night vision goggles in contingency operations. Next they deployed 10 aircraft, 172 personnel and 117 tons of equipment to bare-base operations in support of Major Manar. The 492nd FS was the first F-15 squadron to operate out of Sidi Ahmed Air Base, Tunisia. They flew 144 sorties and exceeded all key maintenance indicators – standards set for maintenance. The Madhatters were lauded by the American Embassy in Tunisia for their dedication and professionalism.
Almost as soon as the 492nd FS returned home, it was time to deploy again, this time to Germany. They sent six aircraft and 68 personnel to Norvenich Air Base, Germany, for the NATO Exercise Clean Hunter. This was an investment for the future operations as the 493rd FS joined them. This tradition of cooperation continued, as both the 492nd FS and the 493rd FS have deployed jointly for AEF 4. During the summer of 2000, the squadron deployed to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for Green Flag. The 492nd FS took 12 aircraft and 169 personnel for the final Green Flag electronic warfare exercise. The F-16 aggressor squadron commander said the Madhatters’ performance was “the best air-to-air performance seen to date by a multi-role fighter squadron.” Madhatter maintenance met the challenge of an aggressive flying schedule combined with 136 degree Fahrenheit ramp with an astonishing 96 percent mission capable rate.
In addition to Green Flag, the 492nd FS participated in the Secretary of Defense-directed joint suppression of enemy air defenses exercise. Here their sister squadron, the 494th FS, joined them. This exercise developed new tactics and procedures to engage targets with weapons and the flexibility only the F-15E can bring to the fight. This fantastic training prepared the aircrew for the work they are doing over Iraq today. Also on the deployment schedule was Karup, Denmark, in support of the NATO Air Meet; Florrenes Air Base, Belgium, to participate in Air North’s Tactical Leadership Programme; and RAF Leuchars after a last minute cancellation of a long-range deployment.
In early 2001 the Squadron conducted contingency operations at their deployed location in Kuwait. The unit welcomed back its deployed members in June 2001.