Florida ANG F-15C/Ds take part in combined exercise in Colombia

Several F-15C/D Eagles from the 159th Fighter Squadron (FS) ‘Boxin’ Gators’ – a component of the Florida Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) 125th Fighter Wing (FW) – deployed to Palanquero, Colombia, on August 18 to participate in the combined exercise, Àngel de los Andes (ADLA) and Relámpago VIII.

This Colombian-led combined exercise was intended to help build and strengthen the partnership between Colombia and US Southern Command, and to practise and improve joint force interoperability. Of the two exercise elements, Relámpago VIII focused on air superiority and large force employment, while ADLA practised joint humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) and combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) operations.

Ground crew personnel assigned to the Florida ANG’s 125th Maintenance Group conduct post-flight maintenance on an F-15C Eagle belonging to the 159th FS ‘Boxin' Gators’ in Palanquero, Colombia, after completing a night sortie during Exercise Relámpago VIII on August 28.
Ground crew personnel assigned to the Florida ANG’s 125th Maintenance Group conduct post-flight maintenance on an F-15C Eagle belonging to the 159th FS ‘Boxin' Gators’ in Palanquero, Colombia, after completing a night sortie during Exercise Relámpago VIII on August 28. USAF/Senior Airman Bryan Guthrie

The participating US military aircraft included F-15C/D Eagles from the Florida ANG’s 125th FW; a C-17A Globemaster III from the North Carolina ANG’s 145th Airlift Wing (AW) and KC-135R Stratotankers from the 92nd Air Refueling Wing (ARW). Helicopters comprising a mix of CH-47s and HH-60s from US Southern Command’s Joint Task Force-Bravo, along with U-28A Draco tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft from US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) were also deployed for the combined exercise.

Meanwhile, the Colombian Air Force participated in the event with Kfir C10/C12s of the Palanquero-based Escuadrón de Combate 111 (Combat Squadron 111) – a component of Grupo de Combate 11 (Combat Group 11) – and the air arm’s sole ECN-235 electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft, which is operated by Escuadrón de Combate Táctico 113 (Tactical Combat Squadron 113) from Palanquero. These flew alongside their USAF visitors, using NATO standards to promote seamless interoperability.

The exercise is something of a last hurrah for the Florida-based Eagles, as Maj Brannon Ferguson – a pilot with the 159th FS – flew the unit’s first F-15C to the famous Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, for long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) on August 14, 2023, and the 125th FW is preparing to receive its first batch of F-35A Lightning IIs in early 2025.