Tag Archives: Air National Guard

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

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

Don’t Fear the Reaper: A Rare Look inside Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations at Holloman Air Force Base

We Went Inside USAF MQ-9 Reaper Training and Operations at Holloman AFB.

We never heard it. Out of the corner of my eye in a cloudless, bright blue New Mexico desert sky I saw the glint of a reflection over our bus. I glanced outside again. Nothing. No sound. Nothing in the sky. Then the glint flashed again, and this time I spotted it. But it was too late. The Reaper was already upon us.

This was the first time I had seen a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper combat aircraft in flight. The experience stands in stark contrast to the thunder of fast jets or the whine of turboprops. In fact, the quiet whirring of the little 900 horsepower Honeywell turboprop seemed oddly toy-like. It seemed that way, if it wasn’t powering one of the most effective combat aircraft in the U.S. arsenal.

Holloman AFB in New Mexico is home to the U.S. Air Force 49th Wing Remotely Piloted Aircraft squadrons. The units include the 6th, 9th and unique 29th Attack Squadrons of the 49th Wing. This is the primary school for teaching new pilots to fly the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. The school provides initial qualification training for the two person aircrews that fly the Reaper. In fact the 49th Wing’s 29th Attack Squadron (ATKS) is reported to be the only complete training unit for MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in the U.S. Air Force. This distinction puts their capabilities in high demand.

Out of the clear, blue New Mexico sky an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft flies over us at Holloman AFB.

Remotely piloted aircraft have been the subject of misconceptions that are largely the result of fiction about “drones” or equipment that somehow spins out of human control. It is almost no more possible with a remotely piloted aircraft like the Reaper than it is with an onboard manned aircraft using a modern fly-by-wire flight control system.

There have been rare instances of adversaries jamming or supposedly taking control of remotely piloted aircraft, as with a December 2011 incident when the Iranian military managed to capture a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel remotely piloted aircraft. But this incident is more of an anomaly than the risk of hijacks using a manned aircraft, as with the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States.

In fact, because security for the signal transmission that links the remotely piloted aircraft directly to its flight crew is codified and constantly improving, it is more likely that a onboard-manned aircraft can be hijacked than a remotely piloted aircraft. Remotely piloted aircraft can also be destroyed without risking the loss of flight crew, as was the case with an incident in September of 2009 in Afghanistan when U.S. combat aircraft destroyed a remotely piloted aircraft that suffered a rare control malfunction.

Last week TheAviationist.com gladly accepted a rare media invitation to see the RPA training operations at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. The school operates several versions of the General Atomics MQ-9 Predator aircraft primarily for training new Predator aircrews.

A distant shot of Reapers at Holloman AFB being used in training missions over New Mexico.

During our tour of the facility, aircrews wore opaque adhesive tape over their name badges for operational security. The missions these aircrews are training for are real world. One instructor related a mission when a new Predator pilot, after extensive training, was tasked with employing live weapons against actual operational targets in a conflict zone only 37 minutes after receiving their full qualification. That level of operational readiness is unprecedented in nearly all current tactical aviation.

His name obscured by tape for operational security, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper pilot describes the video feed from live missions being flown over Holloman AFB.

Predator operators and aircraft live behind additional layers of security within security in the remote New Mexico desert at Holloman. Because the nature of remotely operated combat aircraft reduces deployment time to near zero being in one of the control vans at Holloman was tantamount to standing on an operational forward airstrip in a conflict zone.

A sensor ball mounted under the nose of an MQ-9. This contains various spectrum sensors and cameras and provides the flight crew with their view of the flight operations.

As we received our briefings the cockpit feed from optical sensors and flight control instruments on live aircraft in flight appeared on monitors. It looked like flying any light aircraft, whether it is a Cessna general aviation aircraft or a small, stealthy combat aircraft like the MQ-9 Predator. As we watched an MQ-9 practice landing approaches we could see the response to the pilot’s flight control inputs. These really are just another form of highly capable light combat aircraft.

A rare look into the “cockpit” of the MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted combat aircraft.

In March of 2017 the website Military.com reported that USAF Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson told a media roundtable at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida that, “The U.S. Air Force now has more jobs for MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers than any other type of pilot position.”

With the expansion of remotely piloted aircraft operations and the demand for aircrews to fly them it is reasonable to expect that the 49th Wing at Holloman will continue to be a very busy place.

Operational security around reaper control vans is elevated since the training and missions are a critical asset.

 

Salva

U.S. F-15s have “dominated the skies” during Frisian Flag exercise in Central Europe

Air National Guard Eagles have taken part in one of the largest exercises in Europe before heading to Bulgaria.

Eight F-15C/D Eagle aircraft and supporting personnel from the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, and the 144th Fighter Wing, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, have taken part to Frisian Flag exercise from Leeuwarden airbase, Netherlands, between Apr. 11 and 22.

The American air superiority aircraft belong to the contingent of a dozen F-15s (four were deployed to Iceland to provide air policing duties) that will remain in the European theater for a 6-month tour in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve as part of the latest iteration 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.

This TSP, in particular, “will […] demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous and to deter further Russian aggression

The 8 F-15s of the 131st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron that attended the 12-day Royal Netherlands Air Force Frisian Flag 2016 exercise “dominated the skies” according to a U.S. Air Force release.

F-15 ANG Leeuwarden 4

The F-15 proved to be the preeminent air superiority fighter, while the highly trained support staff and expert maintainers ensured 98% aircraft availability. “The jets and personnel have exceeded performance expectations and our international partners have repeatedly complimented the professional and lethal performance of the 131st,” said Lt. Col. David Halasi-Kun, 131st EFS detachment commander.

The aim of the exercise was to practice multination MFFO (mixed fighter force operations) against realistic airborne, ground and naval threats to validate tactics and improve cooperation.

F-16s belonging to the KLu, Polish Air Force, Belgian Air Force, Royal Danish Air Force, F/A-18 Hornet from the Finnish Air Force, RAF Tornados, German Typhoons, French Mirage 2000D and N jets took part in the exercise along with the U.S. F-15s.

F-15 ANG Leeuwarden 2

Interestingly, one of the F-15s can also be seen in the image below carrying a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod): the TGT pods are used by interceptors to watch the enemy from distance without using the radar to “paint” it.

F-15 ANG Leeuwarden 3

After the FF2016 came to an end, the 131st EFS redeployed to Bulgaria “to continue its overall mission to strengthen interoperability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, prosperous and able to deter aggression.”

F-15 ANG Leeuwarden 5

Image credit: Marco Ferrageau

 

Take a look at this commemorative F-15 Eagle for the 75th Anniversary of the Oregon ANG

What a cool Special Colored F-15!

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Oregon Air National Guard, the 173rd Fighter Wing, based at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, has given an F-15 Eagle a special color scheme.

The images in this post, show the brand new “special color” as it towed out of the hangar where the Wing’s maintenance crews prepared this amazing piece of art!

Do you like it?

Oregon ANG special 1

Oregon ANG special 4

Oregon ANG special 2

Image credit: U.S. Air Force/173rd Fighter Wing

 

Awesome photos feauture U.S. F-15C Eagles participating in Exercise Vigilant Shield 16

Some cool F-15C Eagle air-to-air images.

As we have recently explained, thanks to its privileged position onboard a tanker, the boomer has a unique place from which he can take interesting photos of military aircraft.

Taken by photographers MSgt. David Loeffler and SSgt. Christian Jadot from the boomer position, these cool shots prove once again this claim.

Taken during Exercise Vigilant Shield 16, which took place from Oct. 15 to Oct. 26 and involved approximately 700 members from the Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Air Force, United States Navy and the United States Air National Guard, the following pictures show F-15C Eagles assigned to 194th Fighter Squadron from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker.

Even though the U.S.’s premier air superiority fighter is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the F-15 is still one of the best western interceptors and the Eagles of the units belonging to the U.S. Air Force and to the Air National Guard are routinely deployed overseas for both training and real operations.

Image credit: MSgt. David Loeffler and SSgt. Christian Jadot / U.S. Air Force