NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
The newly developed F15EX Eagle II is the future of air superiority in the Pacific Northwest, and will be stationed here at the Portland Air National Guard Base's 142nd Wing. For two weeks this past October, more than 100 Airmen, including pilots and maintainers, along with the current F15C’s from the 142nd, participated in test missions with the new F15EX at Nellis Air Base, Nevada.
Currently, there are only two F15EXs in the possession of the U.S. Air Force, and the first delivery of new fighter jets is scheduled to arrive at the 142nd Wing in 2025. The mission to Nellis allowed 142nd Airmen the opportunity to acquire more familiarity with the new technology while also supporting F15EX test events and the Weapons Instructor Course.
The Airmen traveled to Nellis to gain insight on the new F15EX and how it differs from the current F15C models the unit is flying and its present equipment.
“We are going to get about a quarter to six month’s worth of training in these two weeks of training down in Nellis,” said 142nd Wing commander Col. David Unruh, describing the impact from the recent hands-on instruction phase.” When other bases receive a new airframe, they might send three or four hundred components to a training mission like this. The 142nd Wing is able to do it with a fraction of that.”
The transition period will allow the unit to stay on mission while integrating the new airframes into the critical operational flow, both with staff and budget.
“We can do it with [short] notice, a lean budget [and] a smaller manpower footprint,” said Unruh, noting how the staffing size of the Air National Guard compares to the active duty Air Force. “We have highly experienced dedicated people that have worked together for years. We can get after big level Air Force objectives without big level Air Force costs.”
The opportunity to train with the F15EX not only allowed the Airmen insight into the inner workings of the fighter jet, it also gave the conversion team time to prepare for the arrival of F15EX in Portland.
Allowing for a prompt and swift transition is important for the maintenance staff, said Chief Master Sgt. Norio Colipano, 142nd Wing F15EX conversion team member.
“My main purpose [at Nellis AFB] was to see what the integration piece is going to look like when we receive the first aircraft, '' said Colipano. “Just to get an overall feel of what it’s going to be like as far as for the maintainers and the transition.”
Though the F15EX will arrive at the 142nd Wing for another three years, the training at Nellis Air Base was helpful to the maintainers, conversion team, pilots, and Airmen who are working on the transition.
“It was highly beneficial because what I got to do was speak with all the different AFSCs (Air Force Specialty Code) that are going to be affected by the change with the new aircraft, '' said Colipano. “And I wanted to see what the similarities were, with what we’re doing now and what kind of changes we can expect.”
According to Lt. Col. Jonathan Friedman, one of the first 142nd Wing members who had the opportunity to fly in the backseat of an Eagle II, there are many similarities between the F15C and the new F15EX.
“Getting the chance to ride in the backseat of the newest F-15 in the Air Force inventory was amazing,” said Friedman. “While the physical performance of the aircraft seemed comparable to our current F-15C's, the amount of information available to the aircrew (and effectively presented on the large area display) was incredible.”
Friedman said the new upgrades to the F15 would provide vital capabilities to enable our national defense. “Combining its open architecture software with its unrivaled capacity will allow the F15EX to quickly adapt to meet new mission requirements and provide vital capabilities to enable our national defense,” said Lt. Col. Friedman.
Col. Unruh added, “This is an important stepping-off point for this Wing, and really a precursor into the next half-century of flying missions here in Oregon.”