California ANG’s 144th FW Launched 16 F-15 Eagle Jets In The Wing’s First Ever Large-Scale Aircraft Generation Exercise

A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing takes-off for the morning sortie at the Honolulu International Airport March 31, 2017 during Sentry Aloha 17-03. Sentry Aloha provides the ANG, Air Force and DoD counterparts a multi-faceted, joint venue with supporting infrastructure and personnel that incorporates current, realistic integrated training. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge)

California Air National Guard’s “Quick Draw” exercise put the 144th Fighter Wing’s readiness to test.

On Dec. 21, the 144th Fighter Wing, based at California Air National Guard Base Fresno, California, took part in Operation Quick Draw, the wing’s first ever large-scale aircraft generation exercise. During the uncommon drills, the unit, whose mission is to provide Air Superiority in support of worldwide joint operations as well as Air Defense of the West Coast of the United States, was called to prepare as many F-15 Eagles for combat as possible with only a 24-hour notice.

In the end the unit was able to generate and launch 16 out of 16 F-15 Eagle fighter jets, a 100% success rate according to Col. Reed Drake, Commander of the 144th FW.

A 144th FW pilot prepares to launch during Operation Quick Draw.

Although pretty uncommon in the past, these short-notice combat readiness drills are becoming part of the periodic ANG units tactical evaluations: on Nov. 22, more or less one month before the 144th FW executed the Quick Draw, the 142nd Fighter Wing/123rd Fighter Squadron “Redhawks”, based at Portland International Airport, took part in a similar exercise launching 13 F-15s within 24 hours. With ANG units supporting the various iterations of a Theater Security Package (TSP), a temporary deployment from CONUS (Continental US) of a force whose aim is to augment the Air Force presence in a specific region for deterrence purposes, assessing the Fighter Wing’s ability to deploy anywhere in the world with a short notice has become extremely important. And the 144th FW is among the units that have already deployed abroad in support of a TSP as part of an EFS (Experiditionary Fighter Squadron): in April 2016, along with the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, the 144th Fighter Wing, deployed to Europe with a dozen F-15s (four were deployed to Iceland to provide air policing duties) for a 6-month TSP in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, with the goal to “[…] demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous and to deter further Russian aggression.”

The F-15Cs of the 144th FW prepare to launch from Fresno ANGB on Dec. 21, 2017.

Image credit: Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Still a very potent aircraft, which makes me wonder. With F-35A coming online, how many F-15s do we either have flying or in Type 1000 storage sitting at Davis Monthan that we can transfer over to Ukraine as direct military aid? To go along with the tank-busting missiles we recently agreed to send over?

    It’s time to put maximum pressure on Moscow over their theft of the Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and nothing would do that better than a few dozen fighter jets with requisite weapons and targeting systems. ECM. To tell Putin in no uncertain terms to either get out of Crimea and Ukraine or the U.S. and NATO is gonna push him out! F-15s would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal. Then?

    We admit Ukraine into NATO. After all, they’re a sovereign nation. They can do whatever they please. They’d make a fine addition to the alliance, Anti-tank missiles are a start and it will get Moscow’s attention but frankly we can do better. Much better. F-15/16 better!

    • The encroachment of NATO right up to Russia’s border is something they were promised would not happen. Not since the run-up to Operation Barbarossa has this been the case….they have long memories and will not stand for it (just shy of 27 million dead). On home turf, with national pride, no rules of engagement or bothersome lawyers Russia will be unbeatable.

    • I agree and will add that we need to create an inexpensive A-10 replacement for countries in Eastern Europe that fear an aggressive Russia.

    • Yep and to date has anyone pushed Putin out except in leroys vivid imagination? You’re detached from reality, friendo. Are you really delusional enough to believe some braindead NATO assault wouldn’t be known about in advance or that there wouldn’t be a potentially nuclear response?

  2. Nice article !
    One question though : in the pictures , we can see the pilots with an Helmet Mounted Display but the F15 still has a HUD. How can that work ? Isn’t an information overlay happening when looking through both devices ?

    • There is a little overlap, but the default behavior mode for the JHMCS helmet is entirely concerned with what its name stands for, target cueing, particularly in WVR , and ensuing weapons deployment. While the classic HUD retains a flying and navigating the airplane task set.

  3. “In the end the unit was able to generate and launch 16 out of F-15 Eagle fighter jets, a 100% success rate according to Col. Reed Drake, Commander of the 144th FW.”
    16 out of how many? Pls correct.

  4. It sounds like they couldn’t afford Gripens so I wonder how many F-16s (yeah, F-15 won’t happen – unfortunately) we have either flying and soon to head to DM and Type 1000 storage or already at DM in type 1000 that we could sell them, SLEP and update with AESA, targeting pods, sell requisite weapons and let them rebuild their AF. You see, my thinking is twofold …

    If Russia aggravates the situation with North Korea we can aggravate their situation with Ukraine. I’d tell Moscow to tread lightly with us where possible action against Kim is concerned or else we’ll play that arm-Ukraine trump card. Otherwise a negotiated settlement where Ukraine’s sovereignty is recognized is obviously the best way forward. Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t want that. For two reasons …

    They think Ukraine is “theirs” and Putin doesn’t want a democratic Ukraine in the EU, vibrant and prospering (they never will if tied to Russia), because then the Russian people just might see that, want that for themselves but recognize that thanks to the current regime they live like dogs and the only way out of their social and economic mess is to rid themselves of their dictator. Two fears Putin has about a free Ukraine. Nonetheless …

    As with Reagan, the U.S. should support free, democratic movements and oppose fascism around the world. We’re the beacon, and folks look towards us. Let’s NOT give up that mantle! But eventually, Ukraine must have their self-governance respected, borders respected, and will of the people undenied. If Russian-ethnics want out of the Donbass region let them move to Russia. Crimea?

    I recognize that territory is historically Russian but something has got to be worked out because you must no be allowed to militarily seize territory in Europe and then proceed to annex it. Those times are over, and Russia must be made to understand that. Through economic sanctions against them or material support for the Ukrainian military.

    • Used F-16’s make a lot of sense for Ukraine for price and performance. And the Ukrainian Air Force could transition from their MiG-29’s and Su-27’s very well. And the nice thing about the Falcon is the US can make them any price they need to be. I understand why you would choose that. My reprehension is I’m no so sure Ukraine will be able to weather the long haul and might bounce back towards Russia. Perhaps I’m selling them short as they’ve already held out for many years as it is. If Ukraine reverts, the Ukrainian AF becomes Russia’s new aggressor squadron with a cadre of instructors well versed in NATO tactics with a full ensemble of NATO’s most used aircraft and weapons. Instant Blue Flag operation for the Russians should an election go bad or in the case of a counter-revolution. I would agree F-16’s are the way to go provided there’s a good case for Ukraine’s commitment to the West, AND our commitment to them. Until then perhaps the Ukraine could re-manufacture Poland’s old MiG-29’s. They have the industrial infrastructure and know how. However that will only buy them a short period of time.

    • Oh, and forgot one more point the Ukrainian AF has to consider. It needs an aircraft that can operate away from a base. They’re going to keep the Russians at bay, they need to be able to disperse. That is one of the reasons why I latch onto the Gripen for less wealthy NATO members who are close to Russia. That’s the major drawback for the F-16 in that environment.

  5. Part 2 – Oh, I neglected to spell out Putin’s second fear (the first being a prospering Ukraine that then threatens his own power). Obviously a Ukraine in NATO is the other. Well, maybe we can negotiate on that. But the status quo is unacceptable. The Minsk Protocols are the start of a way forward. But Putin won’t honor those without necessary economic and military pressure.

    PS. I forgot to mention the problem is with BOTH the Donbas and Luhansk regions. It’s a large slice of Ukrainian territory. Again, Crimea can be part of an agreed upon final settlement of some sort.

    • The USSR flooded those regions with Russians to prevent what’s happening right now. It’s happened in the past and happened in the build up to WWI, and then there was the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during WWII, which operated from 1941 until 1957. When you hear the Russians claim Ukraine is run by Fascists, they’re alluding to the UIA.

      Ukraine coming West is a major threat to the paranoids in Russia who think integration with the West is against their interests. Largely, today, it comes down to how you do business. Russia does business gangster style using state backed corporations backed by intelligence agencies and the GRU. If Russia integrates to the West that has to end. Russia’s politico-mafia organizations then fan up Slavic nationalism to drive artificial barriers between Western Europeans and the Russian people. However if the Ukraine goes western that image of Slavs being Western, rich, and no longer living under a state that’s controlled by mobsters will be a powerful draw for the Russian people to aspire to. Not to mention the Russians would no longer be top Slav, the Ukrainians would be. I think that’s what they (The Russians) fear. And rightly so.

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