The 142nd Wing is Gearing Up for the New F-15EX
By Tech. Sgt. Emily Moon, 142nd Wing
/ Published February 10, 2021
Portland, Ore. --
The 142nd Wing has experienced numerous changes over the years. From starting out as an observation squadron with a fighter group, then a fighter wing, and is now a wing. It has also harnessed several different aircraft from the P-51 to the F-15C Eagle and different kinds of aircraft in between. The 142nd Wing is slated to receive the new F-15EX model aircraft sometime around fiscal year 2025.
In order to prepare the base and its Airmen to bring in the new fighter, the base has a dedicated Conversion Team of 4 experts, with many working groups under them. This team will determine what changes need to be made to prepare for new structures and equipment, but most importantly, what kind of training the Airmen will need, to accommodate for this exciting change.
According to Lt. Col. Nathan Rice, the Unit Conversion Officer, who is a seasoned fighter pilot, “The whole purpose of the Conversion Team is to help the base transition in a seamless manner.”
Currently the team is working with Test and Evaluation at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, as they will be the first unit to receive the EX. They are also in close contact with representatives at the National Guard Bureau, Air Combat Command, and Boeing, to discuss monetary needs for new structures and equipment. In addition to the hardware changes, this new Eagle will potentially change how much manpower the base will need.
All members involved are hoping the transition will be a smooth one.
“The F-15EX is almost 90 percent compatible with the F-15C Model,” said Rice. “We want to convert as soon as possible so we’re a usable wing to the Air Force.”
The team hopes that the conversion will be a quick turn-around so that pilots and maintainers can keep the current mission going without shutting anything down. Boeing has said that the training for pilots on the F-15EX should be minimal before they’re qualified to fully operate them. The maintainers will receive onsite training once jets start to arrive but some will likely go to another base.
“Maintaining the F-15C has become difficult, and our people are wearing out,” said Rice.
Chief Master Sergeant Norio Colipano is in charge of the maintenance side of the Conversion Team, and he said that maintainers are excited for the new change, to hopefully make their job a little easier, but they know it’s going to come with some adapting.
“People have to work very hard to maintain this aging aircraft,” said Colipano, about the C Model. “The replacement parts just aren’t being supported.”
These jets came out in the 70s, said Colipano, that’s a long time running. These jets are getting taxed very hard and we keep reusing the same parts, something’s got to give at some point.
The problem Colipano is worried about the most is that maintenance could be working on two different types of engines. Right now, they use Pratt & Whitney engines at PANG, but the new jet could come with General Electric engines and will need separate maintenance levels. We will have to decide who is working on what so there is no confusion between new parts and old parts on the ramp, and then the trained EX Airmen will become the trainers.
Also, right now, no plans are solidified as of yet as to how many EX jets PANG will receive. The Air Force has to decide how many new jets will go to Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Southern Oregon, where pilots train on F-15s first.
The Conversion Team has worked out a very detailed timeline to prepare for the unknowns until they receive a definite number.
“We want to get into this conversion running, instead of crawling or walking, so we’re trying to prepare our people in the operations and maintenance groups now,” said Colipano.
The Conversion Team is excited that this jet could be at the forefront of the future as it can eventually go from an Air-to-Air mission to becoming an Air-to-Ground mission. This will require another Conversion Team to take charge in training their people for various kinds of weapons loading and training in the future.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel in all of this,” said Rice, “It's a big project, but we’re excited to see it happen.”