Col. Christopher Clark, 144th FW/CC Fini Flight

Col. Christopher Clark, 144th Fighter Wing commander, flew his fini flight in the F-15 Eagle with the 144th fighter Wing at the Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, May 23, 2024. Col Clark chose to fly in the Heritage Jet with its one-of-a-kind, red-white-and-blue paint scheme. Congratulations, Sir! (photos by Maj. Jason Sanchez)


104FW attend WIC at Nellis AFB

104th FW/PA

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts – Members of the 104th Fighter Wing attended the two-week USAF weapons school integration exercise from April 6, 2024, to April 20, 2024, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. This exercise combined multiple squadrons to test and determine the functionality of new air combat tactics through offensive and defensive counterair measures while using both fourth-generation and fifth-generation aircraft.

Members of the 104th Fighter Wing attend USAF weapons school integration exercise, April 6, 2024, to April 20, 2024, at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. This exercise combined multiple squadrons to test and determine the functionality of new air combat tactics through offensive and defensive counterair measures while using both fourth-generation and fifth-generation aircraft.

Maj. James ‘Mongoose’ Hurley, 131st Fighter Squadron Weapons Officer, stressed the significance of the exercise through the potential for fourth generation fighter units to provide air combat support to fifth-generation aircraft for future missions.

“We received an invite from the 433rd Weapons Squadron and the 17th Weapons Squadron there for the F-22 Raptor and F-15E Strike Eagle, respectively,” said Hurley. “Our role within the exercise was to integrate with them to focus on advanced-threat defensive counterair the first week and offensive counterair the second week. Overall, our goal here was to provide the sensor, as well as the fourth-generation role in that against fourth and fifth-generation fighter integration.”
Providing fourth-generation fighter F-15 support in the exercise effectively enables the Air Force to practice and analyze the validity of the new air tactics listed in the Air, Land, Sea, and Space application fighter integration doctrine. This also enables the weapons school students at Nellis to learn these new tactics and be able to teach them to their respective future units when they graduate.

“Helping to be the platform that validates the new tactics, whether its operational tests or the weapons school is great,” said Hurley. “But when you bring in units like us who are going to be the ones to get called on to do it, it’s crucial we have invaluable experience in practicing it.”
By having as many as 25-30 sorties per day, the Air Force can effectively analyze how fourth-generation fighters can provide critical support to fifth-generation fighters through combat and tactics integration.

“While the fifth-generation fighters are certainly capable, they are limited in their gas and missiles,” said Hurley. “If we talk about how fourth-generation can to enable that, we have extra missiles, extra sensors that we can use to support them, in so doing making everyone more lethal and survivable than they would be if they were doing so standalone.”
The exercise provided the 104FW with valuable lessons and experience in practicing integrating with the weapons school students and having the ability to sit through their brief, debrief, and mission planning. Through this integration, the Air Force is better equipped to test, validate, and adjust.
“It’s definitely a valuable experience to get to learn the latest tactics they’re coming out with from the weapons school,” said Hurley. “The validation of the new tactics manual and just learning exactly how best to do it with the changes happening daily as we progress and work our way closer to what looks right. Overall, this was the most useful temporary duty assignment I’ve been on, tactically speaking since I’ve been here.”


End of an Era: 173rd FW trains the last F-15 Eagle Instructor Pilots

By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson

The journey begins at Undergraduate Pilot Training or maybe long, long before, but for this account an Air Force pilot starts the road to the cockpit at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas, in the T-6 Texan, a 1,200 horsepower propeller-driven trainer. From there, they have to find their way in a T-38 supersonic jet trainer, if they make the cut for fighter aircraft.

A fledgling fighter-pilot-in-the-making then heads to Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio—a quick primer, smoothing the transition to warfighting aircraft.

Some of these students track to the F-15 and travel to Kingsley Field to test themselves against the 173rd Fighter Wing B-Course and learn to fly the Eagle, the venerated fighter aircraft boasting an undefeated combat record and bearing the moniker WGASF—world’s greatest air superiority fighter.

None of this is easy, but once a student steps into the ranks of Eagle drivers it’s time to relax, having arrived at their goal … right?

“No. Never,” says Capt. Andrew Marshall, an F-15 pilot with the 550th Fighter Squadron, with a laugh.

Marshall has navigated this path over the last seven years, since graduating from the University of Colorado ROTC program, and is now making his way into the ranks of F-15C instructor pilots at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Capt. Andrew Marshall, an F-15C pilot with the 550th Fighter Squadron, suits up for another sortie on his way to becoming a rated instructor pilot in the Eagle, at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Jan. 18, 2024. He and one other pilot are the last two selected in the U.S. Air Force to receive this upgrade training, signaling the end of an era as future pilots at the 173rd Fighter Wing will convert to the F-35 airframe. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

“I’m hoping to get it done within six months, that’s my personal goal,” he said. “But there’s a lot of other factors—TDYs, weather—all those different things can get in the way of keeping the momentum going. It definitely is a period where you’re just working, working, working…you’re studying all the time.”

He says there are 11 thresholds to cross to become a rated instructor pilot beginning with close-range dogfighting and progressing to a very broad scenario involving many aircraft performing defensive counter-air and everything in between, and a couple of “top-off” events following that.

“I’ve made it through the first two events so far, and it took me seven flights to do it,” adding that the syllabus somewhat mirrors that of his first years at Kadena Air Base, getting his flight lead ratings cumulating with a mission commander upgrade where he controlled 20 fighter aircraft, two tankers and an AWACS.

“It was intense, probably the most stressful experience of my Air Force career,” he said.

He’ll do it again and the difference this time will be one of fine-tuning.

“Now you’re doing it at a higher level,” he explains. “It’s much more refinement in how you go through the instructor upgrade; now you have to be able to not only understand and do it yourself but you have to convey that knowledge and execute it in a way that shows credibility as an instructor.”

apt. Andrew Marshall, an F-15C pilot with the 550th Fighter Squadron, steps to his jet along with two other pilots on a chilly January morning, Jan. 18, 2024, at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon. He is working his way through the process to become a rated instructor pilot in the Eagle, and will be one of the two last to accomplish this as the Air Force transitions away from the venerable fighter to the F-35. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson)

It’s a new process for him, but many have gone before him over nearly four decades of service from the Eagle. He and one other pilot are likely the last.

The Air Force at-large has divested itself of nearly all F-15 Eagle aircraft, most recently deactivating squadrons at Kadena Air Base and transferring those aircraft to the Air National Guard, rendering the future need for instructor pilots minimal. But as with any program there are always the final students.

Marshall says this career trajectory suits him very well and he feels it positions him well for a likely airframe conversion to the F-35 Lightning II, which is slated to arrive at Kingsley Field in 2026 .

He sums up his career choice saying, “It’s one of the best jobs in the world and you have some of the best camaraderie with your pilots and your fellow servicemembers.”


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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