In October 1977, the 49th Wing ended its “dual-base” commitment to NATO and changed to an air superiority mission with the wing beginning a conversion from the F-4D Phantom II to the McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle, the 49th being the second USAF operational wing to receive the F-15A. The transition was completed 4 June 1978.
Due to the change in equipment, the annual NATO deployments were taken over by the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, in 1978; however they resumed (although not on an annual basis) in 1981. In the United States, training missions was refocused on dissimilar air combat tactics for multi-theater operations, participating in numerous Red Flags, Joint Training exercises, and deployments in the Air Defense/Superiority Mission. Frequent deployments were made to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada to exercise with the Northrop F-5E Tiger II “Aggressor” aircraft of the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, and other aircraft types (including clandestine exercises with Soviet aircraft flown by the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada). Also, after TAC absorbed the interceptor mission of Aerospace Defense Command in 1979, the squadron maintained the TAC NORAD air defense alert commitment in the Eagle, with the best scramble times in NORAD.
With the introduction of the F-15C Eagle in the mid-1980s, the upgraded Eagle began replacing the F-15A and Bs in service with all of the USAF units that had previously been operating the Eagle with the exception of the 49th Wing. By the time of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the F-15A Eagles at Holloman had been relegated to a training role; combat deployments of the Eagle were the purview of F-15C units.
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