114th Fighter Squadron training flying dissimilar air combat training with the Airzona ANG at Tucson IAP.

U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles from the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, manuever out to the runway in preperation for a training flight at Tucson, AZ January 10, 2017. The 173rd FW spent two weeks training with the Arizona ANG flying dissimilar air combat training with their F-16s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

U.S. Air Force Captain Patrick Odell, 173rd Fighter Wing F-15 instructor pilot, debriefs, Master Sgt. James Whaling, 173rd Maintenance Operations Center, on his exact landing time following a training flight at Tucson, AZ January 7, 2017. The 173rd FW spent two weeks training with the Arizona ANG flying dissimilar air combat training with their F-16s. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar)

Gunfighters: Innovating Since the Beginning

By Senior Airman Connor J. Marth, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published January 09, 2017

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho —

The 391st and 389th Fighter Squadrons are playing pivotal roles in Operation Inherent Resolve, the Air Force’s current mission in the Southwest Asia region. More than 800 Airmen from the two squadrons spent the better part of 2016 downrange supporting the world’s leading airpower in the war on terror. Inherent Resolve isn’t their first rodeo; however, these two squadrons were among the first fighters to deploy in Operation Enduring Freedom after the terror attacks on 9/11.

An F-15E Strike Eagle, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, taxis at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, October 5th, 2016. The multi-role 4 genertation aircraft has been active in the region for more than 20 years.(Courtesy Photo)

With a specific focus on striking terrorist networks in Afghanistan, Enduring Freedom allowed the Gunfighters to leap into a territory that would push them to new heights as a premier fighter wing.

“After the attacks, the entire [366th Fighter Wing] went into a threat-con Delta and we were postured to fly home-defense missions over areas in the Pacific Northwest,” said Col. David Moeller, Assistant Pacific Command Commander and a former pilot assigned to the 391st. “About a week after, we started receiving deployment notices to Afghanistan. I deployed on October 12th, 2001 only a few weeks after the attacks.”

Moeller explained the U.S. response efforts were fast and powerful. These decisive movements stretched the Air Forces boundaries to meet the needs of the force. Daily flying missions lasted from 10-15 hours, mission preparations lacked a comfortable amount of information and the aircrew often relied on impromptu decision making in the skies. The lack of instruction and precedent allowed the aircrews to set new bars for what defined the F-15.

“As a squadron, I would say we performed better than we had expected [in Enduring Freedom],” Moeller said. “A lot of the tactics and techniques we were performing were new. Talking to a guy on the ground and providing them close air support wasn’t something F-15s had typically done.”

The 391st and 389th Fighter Squadrons paved the way for single-role aircraft to evolve into more capable resources on the battlefield just as the original Gunfighters did in the Vietnam War.

“The old textbooks used to say the Strike Eagle didn’t perform close air support. None of the pilots had been trained to do that sort of thing, but it had to be done,” said Lt. Col. Joel Pauls, 391st Fighter Squadron commander. “For comparison, when my squadron last deployed, three months beforehand we started a very focused training plan where we did nothing but what we were expected to perform down range. At the start of Enduring Freedom, there just wasn’t time to do that.”

Without the necessary time to train their people and research their area of operation, Moeller and his fellow pilots had to think on the fly.

An F-15E Strike Eagle, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, taxis on a runway at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, October 5th, 2016. Previous models of the F-15 are assigned air-to-air roles; the “E” model has the capability to fight its way to a target over long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions and fight its way out. (Courtesy Photo)

 “It’s pretty amazing what people like Col. Moeller and his group of Gunfighters did to change the way the Strike Eagle was used downrange,” Pauls said. “If you compare what we do now to what the Tigers did back then, it’s pretty remarkable. When the nation needed them to step up, they did, and they did so very well.”

18 years later, the 389th and 391st are still answering their nation’s call in Southwest Asia, but they operate differently than before.

“Today’s operations are much more intelligence driven,” Moeller said. “We are more efficient at allocating aircraft for specific missions and we have become more effective at being able to hit the right targets.”

Pauls explained the U.S.’ presence in Southwest Asia has changed from an active invading military force to a behind-the-scenes coercion factor. The U.S.’ current goal is to build up the native militaries in the region to be able to self-sustain and control their own environments.

“[The Air Force] has gotten very good at sustained operations in the Middle East,” Pauls said. “A lot of repetition has allowed us to become more efficient and accurate as a community.”

A community that has been fighting together since the beginning.

“The Gunfighters were kind of the go-to wing in the opening stages of Enduring Freedom,” Moeller said. “They were the ones immediately delivering airpower over Afghanistan and they are still delivering that airpower today

Bold Tigers tear up the skies at Tyndall AFB during Checkered Flag 17-1

By Senior Airman Dustin Mullen, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published December 06, 2016

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The 366th Fighter Wing from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, deployed 16 F-15E Strike Eagles and more than 300 Airmen to Tyndall AFB to participate in Checkered Flag 17-1 Dec. 5-16.

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, from the 391st Fighter Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, sits empty on the flightline at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Dec. 5, 2016. The F-15E is taking part in Checkered Flag 17-1, which gives several units the chance to train together, build relationships and form a more air dominant team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen/Released)

Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives several legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a deployed environment.

“While I have no doubt any two fighter squadrons in the Air Force could effectively integrate and succeed in combat operations; pre-deployment training, like Checkered Flag, makes us that much more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Joel Pauls, 391st Fighter Squadron commander.

To assist in augmenting the realism of the exercise, Mountain Home brought the 391st Fighter Squadron, known as the Bold Tigers. The 366th Fighter Wing lives by their motto of preparing mission-ready gunfighters to fight and win today’s war and the next.

“During the next two weeks we’ll get training opportunities we don’t get at home,” Pauls said. “These experiences will make us more combat capable.”

The F-15s play a large role in the success of Checkered Flag.

“We have [most of the current operational fighter models] in the Air Force participating in Checkered Flag, and we’ll get to plan, brief, execute and debrief with them. I think that’s when you really learn about integration,” Pauls said. “You never know when a crisis is going to erupt in the world and our nation will need us to be ready deal with it.”

The F-15E is a capable multi-role fighter, and the 300 Bold Tigers involved in the exercise are passionate about the mission, Pauls said. “Great Airmen are what make the F-15E so capable, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by them.”

The exercise also gives members of the 391st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron invaluable experience as they are forced to adapt to the stress of a deployed location, and still remain at top proficiency.

“We get the opportunity to work with, load and handle live munitions, which are inherently more dangerous,” said Master Sgt. Shannon Wadas, 391st AMXS lead production superintendent. “Here, we are training as if we were going to go to war. The bottom line is we are a warfighting operation, and the only way to train is to actually do, and we get to do here.”

In a simulated deployed environment like Checkered Flag, units must also deal with a new set of challenges.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Morgan Cisna, an F-15E Strike Eagle crew chief with the 391st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, inspects the underside of an F-15E before takeoff at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Dec. 5, 2016. The F-15Es are taking part in Checkered Flag 17-1, a large scale total force integration exercise that gives legacy and fifth-generation aircraft a chance to train together in a simulated deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen/Released)

“At the moment, we don’t have all of our jets and equipment, and we’re trying to fly an aggressive schedule while we’re here,” Pauls said. “Obviously this increases our risk to flying a bit. Having said that, we have an awesome operations and maintenance leadership team, and I have no doubt those leaders will find a way to maximize our training while we’re here.”

But even with those challenges, the 391st FS can count on familiar faces such as the 55th Fighter Squadron from Shaw AFB, South Carolina, to help maximize mission success.

“The 391st FS and 55th FS have been linked since Red Flag in July 2015,” Pauls said. “We deployed together from fall 2015 to spring 2016, flying [Operation Inherent Resolve] combat operations, and now we’re at Checkered Flag together. Before flying our first sorties here at Tyndall we already have a level of trust and familiarity.”

Members of Mountain Home are working toward extending that same level of trust and familiarity to all of the units here at Checkered Flag 17-1.

Strike Eagle still soars after 30 years

By Airman 1st Class Kenneth Boyton, 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published December 09, 2016

Since its maiden flight, Dec. 11, 1986, The U.S. Air Force considers the F-15E Strike Eagle to be one of the most proficient multi-role, air-to-air and air-to-ground strike fighters active today.

On its 30th anniversary, after flying thousands of missions during worldwide combat operations, the aging F-15E is still relevant and capable of supporting current combatant commander’s requirements.

The F-15E was designed as a fighter and bomber aircraft with a back seat for a second crew member to operate a ground attack weapons delivery system. The cockpit contains the latest advanced avionics, controls and displays. The redesigned airframe was built with a stronger structure allowing heavier takeoff weights and doubled the original F-15 Eagle’s service life.

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., receives fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker during Exercise RAZOR TALON, Nov. 15, 2013. The joint-service exercise was established by the 4th Fighter Wing in March 2011 to provide unique and cost-efficient training operations for units along the East Coast. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brittain Crolley)

Advanced technology and avionics assist the F-15E to fly day or night at low altitudes and in all weather conditions. The jet can also carry nearly every air-to-ground weapon in the Air Force arsenal, including AIM-7F/M Sparrows, AIM-9M Sidewinders and AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles.

“The way the F-15E is built is a huge reason why it’s such a respected and capable aircraft,” said Maj. Michael Jokhy, 335th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. “The F-15E Strike Eagle can hold a lot more gas and weapons than other multi-role aircraft in our inventory.”

The extra fuel allows the Strike Eagle to stay where it’s needed longer, providing more life-saving close-air-support. Additionally, Jokhy said the extra weapons the Strike Eagle can carry are a great safeguard and reminds the enemies of the U.S. who has the world’s most dominant airpower.

During OPERATION DESERT STORM in the early 1990s, an F-15E from the then 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, destroyed an Iraqi Mi-24 Hind helicopter with a laser-guided bomb. The F-15E also flew into enemy territory multiple times while under heavy anti-aircraft artillery fire and demolished Scud missile sites proving its air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities.

The F-15E was the only fighter able to attack ground targets around the clock, in all weather conditions during the 1990s Balkan conflict.

The U.S. Air Force currently has 219 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft, mainly utilized for close air support during operations.

According to the Department of Defense, as of Dec. 2, 2016, U.S. and coalition aircraft have conducted more than 16,592 strikes in Iraq and Syria in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE. Additionally, the Strike Eagle has contributed to destroying or damaging, over 31,900 targets as part of OIR, further degrading and defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons and maintenance units frequently deploy to areas of responsibility in Southwest Asia to aid with the DOD’s lines of effort which include, providing military support to our partners, impeding the flow of foreign fighters, stopping ISIL’s finanacing and funding and exposing ISIL’s true nature.

During the 335th Fighter Squadron’s most recent deployment, F-15E Strike Eagle pilots and weapons systems officers flew more than 9,250 combat hours, dropped more than 2,000 bombs and killed more than 80 high-value ISIL individuals.

To further enhance the already devastating capability of the F-15E Strike Eagle, the jets at Seymour Johnson are currently receiving upgrades through Boeing Co.’s Radar Modernization Program.

“We’re doing [the upgrade] on all of the F-15E models,” said Jonathan Pierce, Boeing Co. F-15E site lead. “This radar update is going to drastically improve the aircraft’s air-to-air and air-to-ground radar, making it significantly more capable.”

The old legacy APG-70 mechanically-scanned radar is being replaced with a new active electronically-scanned radar system, APG-82. It’s designed to retain functionality of the old legacy radar system while providing expanded mission employment capabilities.

“What I’m most looking forward to with the modification is that it will be more in line with what other fighters have across the combat Air Force,” said Capt. Bryan Hladik, 336th FS pilot. “The upgraded radar will further enhance our abilities to target [ISIL] through the weather. On days that visual acquisition of the target is not possible due to clouds, we will be able to take precise air-to-ground maps and target [Joint Direct Attack Munition] with a very high level of accuracy.”

Col. Christopher Sage, 4th Fighter Wing commander, believes the F-15E is an imperative part to the Air Force mission and the future of combat air power.

“On its 30th anniversary, the F-15E is still a phenomenal and capable war-fighting machine. It controls the sky and dominates the ground,” said Sage. “It’s an important piece of equipment our Air Force uses to maintain air superiority in support of global operations and national defense.”

142nd FIGHTER WING PARTICIPATES IN EXERCISE VIGILANT SHEILD 2017

Participants of Exercise Vigilant Shield 2017, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, pose for a group photo Oct. 21, 2016. During this exercise, forces supporting North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will deploy and conduct air sovereignty operations in the far north and the high Arctic demonstrating the ability to detect, identify and meet possible threats in some of the most remote regions in the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Participants of Exercise Vigilant Shield 2017, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, pose for a group photo Oct. 21, 2016. During this exercise, forces supporting North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will deploy and conduct air sovereignty operations in the far north and the high Arctic demonstrating the ability to detect, identify and meet possible threats in some of the most remote regions in the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/24/2016 – YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES — Touching down in a C-5 Galaxy loaded with people and cargo, members of the 142nd Fighter Wing arrived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to snow, bitter temperatures and a warm welcome, to participate in Exercise Vigilant Shield 2017, October 17-21.

F-15 Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing arrive in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for Exercise Vigilant Shield 2017, Oct. 17, 2016. Vigilant Shield 17 represents a unique opportunity to practice and hone joint interoperability and cooperation skills between Canada and the United States in order to protect borders as well as national interests. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs).

F-15 Eagles from the 142nd Fighter Wing arrive in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, for Exercise Vigilant Shield 2017, Oct. 17, 2016. Vigilant Shield 17 represents a unique opportunity to practice and hone joint interoperability and cooperation skills between Canada and the United States in order to protect borders as well as national interests. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs).


The Vigilant Shield 2017 Field Training Exercise is an annual exercise sponsored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and led by Alaskan NORAD Region, in conjunction with Canadian NORAD Region and Continental NORAD Region, who undertake field training exercises aimed at improving operational capability in a bi-national environment.

Bringing approximately 65 members, four F-15 Eagles and 119,450 pounds of equipment to the Northwest Territories, the 142nd Fighter Wing was greeted by a host of support from the Canadian Mission Support Element as well as multiple U.S. military forces at Yellowknife, making it truly a joint exercise.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs).

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs).


This year’s exercise built on previous years’ training successes when deploying air assets and personnel to the far north to exercise sovereignty operations in North America’s northern aerospace and in the high Arctic. Vigilant Shield provides crucial training opportunities for numerous military personnel with a variety of aircraft and assets from Canada and the United States to improve interoperability and to demonstrate NORAD’s ability to defend North America.

The exercise provided the opportunity not only to deploy troops, jets and equipment to a forward location, but also to operate in a climate much different than the 142nd Fighter Wing’s home of Portland, Oregon.

F-15 Eagle pilot Capt. James Hastings, 123rd Fighter Squadron, said the weather in the Northwest Territories provided a chance to work through “new aspects of mission planning and execution that doesn’t happen at home.”

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs).

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs).


Chief Master Sgt. Dan Conner, 142nd Maintenance Group and Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of the 142nd Vigilant Shied deployment, said participating in Vigilant Shield “helps us exercise the machine, moving all of our equipment and people into another location and ensuring that we are capable of operating.”

The men and women of the 142nd Fighter Wing wrapped up their portion of Vigilant Shield with the successful launch of their homeward bound F-15 Eagles.  For Master Sgt. Joshua Combs, 142nd Maintenance Group, it was his first deployment as a 1st Sgt. where he was able to truly see the valuable and concrete training this exercise provided.

“The highlight of the trip was seeing the jets take off, being able to move all of the equipment and all of the personnel, get set up, get the aircraft here and seeing our maintainers happy, and looking forward to doing what they were trained to do,” said Combs.  “I have to say that I am spoiled on this trip, it has been absolutely perfect.”

Col. Steven Early, 144th OG reaches the 3,000 flight hour milestone.

Two U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. return to base. One of the pilots (right), U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Early, 144th Operations Group commander, reached a milestone in his flying career by hitting the 3,000 flight hour mark in the F-15 Aug. 18, 2016. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

Two U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters assigned to the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. return to base. One of the pilots (right), U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Early, 144th Operations Group commander, reached a milestone in his flying career by hitting the 3,000 flight hour mark in the F-15 Aug. 18, 2016. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Early (left), 144th Operations Group commander, reached a milestone in his flying career at the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. by hitting the 3,000 flight hour mark in the F-15C Eagle fighter Aug. 18. Col. Early is congratulated by Maj. Russ Piggott, 194th Fighter Squadron pilot, after the sortie was complete. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Early (left), 144th Operations Group commander, reached a milestone in his flying career at the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. by hitting the 3,000 flight hour mark in the F-15C Eagle fighter Aug. 18. Col. Early is congratulated by Maj. Russ Piggott, 194th Fighter Squadron pilot, after the sortie was complete. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Early, 144th Operations Group commander, reached a milestone in his flying career at the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. by hitting the 3,000 flight hour mark in the F-15C Eagle fighter Aug. 18. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Early, 144th Operations Group commander, reached a milestone in his flying career at the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif. by hitting the 3,000 flight hour mark in the F-15C Eagle fighter Aug. 18. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

 

Reapers, Griffins complete Estonia FTD

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and the 493rd Fighter Squadron, see-off F-15C Eagle pilots assigned to the 194th EFS after completing a multilateral flying training deployment at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Aug. 26, 2016. Aircraft and personnel from the U.S., Sweden, Finland, the U.K. and Estonia participated in flying training exercises to build interoperability and focus on dissimilar air training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and the 493rd Fighter Squadron, see-off F-15C Eagle pilots assigned to the 194th EFS after completing a multilateral flying training deployment at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Aug. 26, 2016. Aircraft and personnel from the U.S., Sweden, Finland, the U.K. and Estonia participated in flying training exercises to build interoperability and focus on dissimilar air training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower/Released)

By Senior Airman Erin Trower, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published September 03, 2016

ÄMARI AIR BASE, Estonia — U.S. Air Force and allied partners completed a multilateral flying training deployment in Estonia Sept. 2.

The FTD served to enhance unit readiness and interoperability.

The 493rd Fighter Squadron ‘Grim Reapers’, based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and the 194th Expeditionary Flying Squadron ‘Griffins’, from the California Air National Guard in Fresno, flew alongside allied nations to enhance capabilities and to equally demonstrate their commitment to European security and stability.

“It was a tremendous opportunity for the Griffins to train and integrate with the Reapers,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, 194th EFS commander. “The amount of instructor time and the amount of support we got from the 493rd was top shelf.”

The Reapers and Griffins participated in the FTD with Estonian, Swedish, Finnish and U.K. aircraft and personnel throughout the duration of the FTD to focus on dissimilar air training and to test their capabilities against each other. According to Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, bringing the five nations together to train effectively, took time, but was well worth the effort.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle pilot, left, stands with U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Aug. 26, 2016. The 194th and 493rd participated in a multilateral flying training deployment to build interoperability through air assurance training with allies and partners. The 194th EFS is assigned to the California Air National Guard in Fresno, and the 493rd FS is assigned to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, 194th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle pilot, left, stands with U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Zumwalt, 493rd Fighter Squadron commander, at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Aug. 26, 2016. The 194th and 493rd participated in a multilateral flying training deployment to build interoperability through air assurance training with allies and partners. The 194th EFS is assigned to the California Air National Guard in Fresno, and the 493rd FS is assigned to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower/Released)

“When you start out with a new team with a bunch of members who have never worked together, there’s that awkward phase where you’re not very good working together and performance is low,” he said. “We are always trying to get to know each other and find out what each group’s strengths and weaknesses are, and, once that happens, the team performs very well together.”

The pilots practiced various tactics and offensive and defensive counter-air operations to enhance their readiness, while building resilient relationships with each other and the participating forces.

“What this FTD provides us is building trust with other countries around Europe,” Zumwalt said. “Getting together, finding out our roles and building relationships to build that trust.”

The FTD supported Operation Atlantic Resolve in an effort to demonstrate the U.S.’s commitment to NATO, allied partnerships, and European security. More than 300 Airmen participated in the FTD to make the routine rotational deployment a successful operation.

U.S. Air Force Airmen stand for a group photo in front of a 493rd Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Aug. 30, 2016. Approximately 300 personnel deployed to Amari AB to support a flying training deployment. The squadron trained with other air forces, including Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and the U.K., in focus of building interoperability and strengthening allied partnerships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower/Released)

U.S. Air Force Airmen stand for a group photo in front of a 493rd Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Aug. 30, 2016. Approximately 300 personnel deployed to Amari AB to support a flying training deployment. The squadron trained with other air forces, including Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and the U.K., in focus of building interoperability and strengthening allied partnerships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin Trower/Released)

Mad Hatters support Noble Arrow

By Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England — F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron here, launched sorties as they began participation in Noble Arrow 16, Oct. 8.

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron takes off for a sortie in support of Noble Arrow 16 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England Oct. 11. The training prepares all air forces allocated to the NATO Response Force 2017 and offers similar training opportunities for participating, non-NRF, air units. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron takes off for a sortie in support of Noble Arrow 16 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England Oct. 11. The training prepares all air forces allocated to the NATO Response Force 2017 and offers similar training opportunities for participating, non-NRF, air units. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield)

Noble Arrow is a NATO air exercise conducted with Portugal and the U.K. to provide force integration and combat readiness preparation through varied air-to-air, air-to-surface and air-to-sea scenarios while strengthening allied force interoperability.

“We conduct training with our Allies and partners on a regular basis. These flying exercises improve interoperability between our defense forces and NATO Allies and partners,” said 1st Lt. Tristan Stewart, 492nd FS pilot. “NATO exercises like Noble Arrow assure our Allies that core capabilities are actively being trained to enhance the overall readiness of the alliance.”

The air exercise is being held in conjunction with exercises Joint Warrior, Noble Mariner and Unmanned Warrior, which combined ensure component capabilities to conduct NATO Response Force missions.

F-15E Strike Eagles from the 492nd Fighter Squadron prepare to launch for a sortie in support of Noble Arrow 16 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England Oct. 18. These combined training exercises increase cooperation in training, and further strengthens interoperability with NATO Allies in order to meet challenges as a unified force. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield)

F-15E Strike Eagles from the 492nd Fighter Squadron prepare to launch for a sortie in support of Noble Arrow 16 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England Oct. 18. These combined training exercises increase cooperation in training, and further strengthens interoperability with NATO Allies in order to meet challenges as a unified force. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield)

Noble Arrow 16 increases cooperation in critical training, and further strengthens our interoperability with NATO Allies in order to meet challenges as a unified force, demonstrating U.S. commitment to European stability and security.

Two milestones with one bird

By Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs / Published August 22, 2016

When the announcement came through the radio that F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 would land in 10 minutes, Airmen of the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance and 335th Expeditionary Fighter squadrons prepared to celebrate a historic moment, Aug. 16, 2016.

The F-15E was the first to achieve 12,000 flying hours and the pilot, Lt. Col. Brandon, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, attained a career milestone at the same time; reaching 3,000 flying hours after 25 years of service.

Lt. Col. Brandon, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, and Capt. Matthew, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron weapon systems officer, prepare to disembark from F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 after a milestone flight at an undisclosed location, Aug. 16, 2016. The jet attained 12,000 flying hours and Brandon achieved 3,000 flying hours during the same flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison)

Lt. Col. Brandon, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, and Capt. Matthew, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron weapon systems officer, prepare to disembark from F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 after a milestone flight at an undisclosed location, Aug. 16, 2016. The jet attained 12,000 flying hours and Brandon achieved 3,000 flying hours during the same flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison)

“I have been lucky to have the privilege of flying this outstanding combat warhorse for over 16 years,” Brandon said. “Each one of those 3,000 hours, and 12,000 hours for the jet, represent countless hours from our Air Force team. As Strike Eagle aircrew, we are privileged to put bombs on target as a culmination of unbelievable efforts by thousands of others.”

The effort put into the maintenance and care of the jet has resulted in an impressive 26 year history since its commission in 1990, which has earned it the nickname “America’s Jet” within the unit, according to Chief Master Sgt. Roosevelt, 380th EAMXS STRIKE superintendent.

The aircraft has deployed 17 times in support of combat operations, to include operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Roosevelt said. It was during Operation Desert Storm that “America’s Jet” dropped a GBU-10 laser-guided bomb on an enemy helicopter in the only recorded F-15E air-to-air combat kill.

Senior Airman Bradley, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, and Lt. Col. Brandon, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, apply a 12,000 flying hour decal to the side of F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 after its milestone flight in an undisclosed location, Aug. 16, 2016. During the same flight, Brandon also achieved a career milestone of 3,000 flying hours after 25 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison)

Senior Airman Bradley, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, and Lt. Col. Brandon, 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, apply a 12,000 flying hour decal to the side of F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487 after its milestone flight in an undisclosed location, Aug. 16, 2016. During the same flight, Brandon also achieved a career milestone of 3,000 flying hours after 25 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samantha Mathison)

The commemorative star decal on the side of the aircraft has served as a visual reminder of the event ever since, and now the jet has earned another milestone decal signifying the achievement of 12,000 flying hours.

“To reach this milestone it required almost 30 years of performing safe, compliant and efficient aircraft maintenance,” Roosevelt said. “12,000 hours is huge for a fighter, because Airmen actually get to see, feel and hear their impact to the mission, and understand how what they do is important.”

What makes this jet even more unique is that this milestone and the last one of 10,000 flying hours were both accomplished in deployed locations during operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve, he said.

The 380th EAMXS crew chiefs deployed with “America’s Jet” from Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and whether home or abroad, this aircraft is their pride and joy, according to Master Sgt. Richard, 380th EAMXS lead production superintendent.

“All of our aircraft have different temperaments, so to speak, but America’s Jet consistently outperforms all of our other jets,” Richard said. “We work hard to keep our aircraft in the air, so the 12,000 hour milestone is a testament to all of the maintainers who’ve kept her flying. That’s why we call her America’s Jet; because she is full of grit and fortitude, the embodiment of the American spirit, and has demonstrated this in every major conflict since Desert Storm.”

335th FS Strike Eagles reached 12,000 flight hour

Lt Col. Brandon Johnson, 335th Fighter Squadron commander, disembarks an F-15E Strike Eagle after returning from deployment, Oct. 12, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. During the deployment, Johnson’s aircraft reached its 12,000 flight hour milestone on Aug. 16, while Johnson also recorded his 3,000th flight hour during the same sortie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Lt Col. Brandon Johnson, 335th Fighter Squadron commander, disembarks an F-15E Strike Eagle after returning from deployment, Oct. 12, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. During the deployment, Johnson’s aircraft reached its 12,000 flight hour milestone on Aug. 16, while Johnson also recorded his 3,000th flight hour during the same sortie. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)