The F-15C from the California Air National Guard are taking part in Exercise “Clear Sky 2018”.
On Oct. 6, 2018, U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles, belonging to the 194th Fighting Squadron of the 144th Fighter Wing, California ANG, from California Air National Guard Base Fresno, California, landed for the first time ever on Ukrainian soil.
The aircraft deployed to Starokostiantyniv, an airbase to the west of Kiev, home where the Su-24M Fencers of the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade.
The U.S. F-15s are taking part in Clear Sky 2018, a multinational exercise that will see the participation of 950 military from 9 countries, with assets distributed across several bases, both in Ukraine and Poland.
The drills will focus on the air-to-ground scenarios with AI (air interdiction) and CAS (Close Air Support) missions, as wll as air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyber defense and personnel recovery.
According to a recent article published by Air Force Times, California ANG F-15s and Ukrainian fighters will operate out of Starokostiantyniv Air Base, California ANG C-130s and Ukrainian transport aircraft will operate out of Vinnytsia Air Base, and additional Ukrainian fighter aircraft will fly out of Ivano-Frankivsk. The tanker support will be provided by Illinois ANG KC-135s out of Powidz Air Base, Poland, and KC-135s from the active duty component flying from RAF Mildenhall, England. The unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drone that have recently started operations from Poland, will also take part in the exercise launching from Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland. JTACs from both the Pennsylvania ANG the U.K., Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands will also be supporting Clear Sky exercise, providing ground-based joint terminal attack control instructors for the close-air support portion of the exercise.
Ukraine is not NATO member, although relations with the alliance began in 1994. In 2014, following the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, Ukraine has been involved in a low-intensity conflict with Russian proxy forces in the east of the country, growing, as a consequence, cooperation with NATO.
Although five KC-135 tankers deployed to Lviv Danylo Halytskyi International Airport, Ukraine, in June, while U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk drones regularly overfly Donbass, Clear Sky 2018 marks the first time tactical jets operate in the country: a sign of the American and NATO commitment to increase its presence in the region or, to use the words in a press release it’s part of the “U.S. strategy to defend European Allies, enhance security in Eastern Europe and increase the level of military understanding between Allies and partners.”