Eagles Rock: 48th Fighter Wing - Where Combat Airpower Lives

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Michael Stephan
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site

For those unfamiliar with HMH Publications’ line of Duke Hawkings books, they are a series of softcover tomes featuring detailed walk-around photos of individual aircraft types. Their focus leans heavily towards aircraft in European use, with forays into common US aircraft. Today’s book is the first in the Duke Hawkings Presents line: Eagles Rock - 48th Fighter Wing - Where Combat Airpower Livesby Michael Stephan.

Duke Hawkings Presents Eagles Rockdiffers from their traditional series in several ways. Physically, it is hardcover and slightly larger at approximately 10” x 11”. It features 170 pages with 200+ color photos. Also, the book focuses not on a single aircraft type, but on the “Statue of Liberty '' 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in England. In general, the book focuses on interviews with various officers of the Liberty Wing, focusing largely on those in command of the wing’s various groups and squadrons. Along with various introductions by ranking officers, Eagles Rock has chapters covering:

  • RAF Lakenheath and 48th Fighter Wing History
  • 48th Fighter Wing Organization
  • 48th Maintenance Group
  • 48th Operations Group
  • 48th Operations Support Squadron
  • The 492nd Fighter Squadron “Madhatters” (including the author’s own F-15E flight)
  • The 493rd Fighter Squadron “Grim Reapers”
  • The 494th Fighter Squadron “Panthers”
  • 56th Rescue Squadron
  • 57th Rescue Squadron
  • 48th Fighter Wing Future

The highlight of Eagles Rock for modelers is the stunning photography. Photos are crisp, colorful, and well reproduced on the page. The photos and text are laid out in a contemporary fashion, and the captions are clear and informative. The majority of photos feature F-15s in flight (including amazing closeups at low-altitude in the nearby Mach Loop) or on the ramp. In general, the photos seem to include more recent aircraft, such as the 2019 D-Day Heritage F-15Es and 2022 Anniversary F-15E. Other photos highlight pilots and airmen performing their duties around the jets. There are a handful of photos with close-up details, such as cockpits, helmets, and engines undergoing maintenance. Additionally, there are a few pages dedicated to HH-60G Pave Hawks, and a couple of photos of Liberty Wing’s newly-arrived F-35s.

Eagles Rock seems to cover a period primarily in the post-2015 to 2020 era, when Liberty Wing’s squadrons flew the F-15C/D Eagle (493rd) and F-15E Strike Eagle (492nd & 494th), along with HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters of the 56th & 57th Rescue Squadrons. The lack of dates on the various interviews can lead to some confusion over the events discussed. For example, mentions of the Russian invasion of Ukraine could potentially refer to the 2014 Crimea annexation or the 2022 full-scale invasion. Additionally, the 56th & 57th Rescue Squadrons were reassigned to the 31st Fighter Wing in the spring of 2018, which dates some interviews prior to that time. There are a few very recent notes, such as those touching on the 493rd’s final F-15C missions deploying to Poland in February 2022 during the leadup to the invasion of Ukraine.

For those readers, like myself, who are not former military, Eagles Rock provides a fascinating and enlightening look at the inner workings of the modern USAF. Each interviewee provides a bit of their personal career history and path that led them to Liberty Wing and piloting in general. Many of those in high-ranking roles honed their skills in combat from Desert Storm through OEF/OIF and beyond. There is a great deal of discussion of 2011’s Operation Odyssey Dawn that saw some of Liberty Wing’s Strike Eagles flying combat missions into Libya directly from RAF Lakenheath.

If you’re a fan of the Strike Eagle, USAFE, or simply gorgeous aviation photography, then Eagles Rock - 48th Fighter Wing - Where Combat Airpower Lives has certainly earned its place on your shelf. The book was clearly a labor of love assembled over many years by author Michael Stephan. It was an informative and enjoyable read, and I highly recommend the book! I’m also excited to see what is next for the Duke Hawkings Presents series. My thanks to HMH Publications and Casemate Publishers for supplying the review copy, along with IPMS/USA for the review opportunity.


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