Happy New Year


Flashback: McDonnell Douglas F-15A Streak Eagle

For two weeks beginning on Jan. 16, 1975, three Air Force pilots and a modified McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Division (McAir) F-15A-6-MC (72-119) made an assault on the world class time-to-climb for aircraft powered by jet engines.
The three pilots, Maj. Roger Smith, Maj. W. R. ‘Mac’ Macfarlane, and Maj. Dave Peterson were all members of the F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards. Pete Garrison, a McAir pilot, was instrumental in the development of the flight profiles used for the records.

Project Streak Eagle had three major objectives:

  1. To enhance Air Force esprit de corps and morale, and to foster the attractiveness of an Air Force career in support of recruiting objectives;
  2. To help establish the credibility of Air Force general purpose forces as an integral element of the United States’ overall military posture;
  3. To provide data on the F-15’s capabilities at the extremes of altitudes and performance under controlled test conditions.

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Eagles have landed:  New F-15EXs arrive at Eglin

By Samuel King Jr.

The Air Force’s two newest fighters, F-15EX Eagle IIs, known as EX3 and EX4, touched down at Eglin Dec. 20, 2023 just minutes from each other. 

The new arrivals bring the Air Force’s total F-15EXs to four, all located at Eglin. The two aircraft belong to the 96th Test Wing (EX3) and 53rd Wing (EX4), who also own the initial two fighters.

“The F-15EX has met every challenge we’ve thrown at it to date and the platform is on the cusp of being ready for the warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Wee, Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force commander. “The delivery of the new aircraft paves the way for not only the delivery of combat coded aircraft to the U.S. Air Force, but also the continued development of this incredible addition to the USAF inventory.”

The new Eagles bring features and capabilities to be tested that the original two jets didn’t have. The cockpit pressure monitor and warning system is a new addition to EX3 and EX4, as well as an ultra-high frequency antenna for satellite communications. The new Eagles also feature a forward fuselage redesigned specifically for the U.S. Air Force.

The F-15EX test platforms at Eglin will accelerate development of capabilities both for the platform itself, and other combat aircraft.

“Our integrated test approach, which combines developmental and operational test, brings the future faster to the warfighter,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, 96th Test Wing commander. “This ensures the U.S. Air Force continues to provide deterrence and readiness for the high-end fight.”

The F-15EX program at Eglin ends this year with two new aircraft, but the combined test wings kept the two available jets in the air for a very busy 2023. In May, those two aircraft flew to Alaska and participated in and supported Northern Edge 2023. In June, the F-15EX executed advanced weapons integration missions to ensure the aircraft and various munitions flew and communicated with each other properly.

After the integration successes, the F-15EXs flew to Hill AFB, Utah, for Combat Hammer, where the aircraft successfully employed advanced air-to-ground weapons for the first time. These and the efforts over the last two years earned the combined test and evaluation team a glowing report from the Operational Test and Evaluation director.

 The director’s report stated the F-15EX is operationally effective, suitable, and survivable against threats likely to be encountered while performing its missions in threat environments.  This report allows the program to move into a new testing phase. 

“I am tremendously proud of the team and their efforts to foster the F-15EX program,” said Wee. “The F-15EX is the most capable Eagle on the planet, and we are just getting started.” 

The test wings are scheduled to receive two more F-15EX aircraft in the future


F-15EX Eagle IIs to be based at Kadena AB

STARS AND STRIPES • December 19, 2023

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – The Air Force is considering a plan to permanently replace its aging fleet of F-15 Eagle fighters on Okinawa with a smaller number of more advanced aircraft, a Japanese news magazine reported recently.

The Air Force informed lawmakers on Capitol Hill that it plans to permanently deploy 36 F-15EX Eagle II fighters at Kadena Air Base to replace the 48 F-15C/Ds previously stationed there, Nikkei Asia reported Monday, citing unnamed congressional sources briefed on the plan.

The multi-role F-15EX fighters, derived from the F-15E Strike Eagle, could be bolstered by unmanned drones.

Some lawmakers and scholars expressed concerns about the message a smaller permanent fighter presence would send to allies and potential adversaries in the region, the news magazine reported.

“I support a permanent basing of F-15EX aircraft at Kadena but am concerned about the Air Force’s initial plan to station only 36 new aircraft, replacing the 48 divested ones,” Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., told the outlet. Wittman, vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he wants to see an “operational analysis” that supports the decision, Nikkei said.

A representative for Wittman did not return calls and emails Monday from Stars and Stripes.

Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Nikkei that the decrease will “raise some eyebrows.”

The Air Force is halfway through a two-year plan to replace Kadena’s 48 F-15C/D fighters of the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons with rotating squadrons of more modern aircraft, including the fifth-generation F-35A and F-15E Strike Eagles.

Some F-15s from Kadena went to Air National Guard units in the United States or to the Air Force boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

The upgrade comes as tensions increase between the U.S. and China, a regional power the Pentagon has labeled an aggressive presence in the East and South China Seas and a global “pacing challenge,” according to the 2022 National Defense Strategy.

A spokeswoman for the Air Force declined to discuss the permanent deployment of fighters to Kadena.

“We continue to support the region with rotational fighters,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek wrote by email Monday.

Jeffrey Hornung, a senior political scientist at Rand Corp., said having fewer fighters in one place is in line with the Air Force’s dispersal doctrine, agile combat employment. Agile combat employment calls for operations to shift from centralized air hubs to a network of smaller, dispersed sites or cluster bases.

Deploying fewer aircraft “is perhaps just them thinking, ‘OK, we will have access someplace in the region, whether that be Japan, Philippines, wherever,’” he told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday. “You don’t want to put everything back into Kadena.”

Toshiyuki Shikata, a former lieutenant general in the Ground Self-Defense Force, agreed.

“It is better to have improved aircraft than keeping the aircraft with inferior quality in larger quantity,” Shikata said by phone Tuesday. “I believe the replacement will take place in a way that keeps deterrence.”

Permanently deploying Eagle IIs, even in fewer numbers, would show a U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan, Junjiro Shida, an associate professor of international politics at Meio University on Okinawa, said by phone Tuesday.

“Japan and the U.S. are developing a structure to jointly operate,” he said.

The F-15EX, made by Boeing, arrived at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in March 2021. A two-seat aircraft operable by a single pilot, it comes with increased payload capacity and advanced avionics. It can carry hypersonic weapons designed to combat future near-peer adversaries.


The first Raytheon Trophy awarded to the 335th Fighter Squadron ‘Chiefs’

Story by Airman 1st Class Leighton Lucero

Nov 11, 2023 SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, North Carolina – In the hangars on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Airmen with oil-stained uniforms and tools in bruised hands prepared fighter jets for flight. Once the jets are ready the pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSO) encased within them took to the sky, ready to maintain air-dominance anytime, anywhere and against any foe in support of global interests.

The effort of these men and women, help the U.S. Air Force maintain itself as the strongest and most resilient airpower in the world. Since 1953, the Raytheon Trophy has been awarded annually to the top air-superiority or air-defense squadron in the U.S. Department of the Air Force.

F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets assigned to the 335th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, prepare for takeoff during Red Flag 18-1, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 30, 2018. (U.S Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)

The 335th Fighter Squadron, known as the ‘Chiefs,’ have received the coveted award for 2022. It is the first Raytheon Trophy awarded to an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter squadron in Air Combat Command history. Their exceptional show of force on the world stage, as well as the success of training exercises in fiscal year 2022, set them apart from their peers in a very competitive field of fighter squadrons across the Combat Air Forces.

The squadrons are graded on mission performance, exercise performance, organizational readiness inspection results and several other factors. Throughout their deployment, they flew over 1,400 sorties, logged over 4,000 flight hours, dropped over 150 bombs and shot 4 AIM-9Xs. The AIM-9X is called the Sidewinder missile, and it tracks its target with heat seeking capabilities.

Additionally, in calendar year 2022, the ‘Chiefs’ completed 11 temporary duty travels and 29 gold-standard agile combat employment events. They also led the Air Force’s largest F-15 Wing to train 97 Airmen/crew to be combat ready in a single year. Additionally, the ‘Chiefs’ provided defensive counter air throughout the USCENTCOM area of responsibility while simultaneously executing armed overwatch and close air support for 115 friendly positions in theater.

F-15 Eagle fighter jet pilots assigned to 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, cheer before taking off to participate in Red Flag 18-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan 30, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

While maintaining air dominance and supporting ground positions in five countries, the ‘Chiefs’, as mission commanders, simultaneously executed President of the United States (POTUS) directed strikes with 18 bombs on nine hostile pivotal infrastructures.

“This award is a huge honor,” said the 335th Fighter Squadron Commander. “There are 48 other multi-role fighter squadrons in the United States Air Force and the Chiefs were the first unit on SJAFB to win it. The ‘Chiefs’ utilize F-15E Strike Eagles, making us one of three total F-15 squadrons to ever win the award.”

Out of all the fighter squadrons in the force, the ‘Chiefs’ maintainers, pilots and WSOs excelled above the rest. Their diligence, determination and lethality enabled them to accomplish various missions.

“Winning this award shows that the 4th Fighter Wing is still a very lethal and credible wing,” said the 335th Fighter Squadron Commander. “The 335th FS definitely demonstrated their capabilities down range. The camaraderie they show for being chosen as the top air-dominance squadron in the U.S. Air Force, in 2022, gives us a lot of pride. It is a huge accomplishment for Team Seymour and the Chiefs!”