The USAF is actively reconsidering previously announced plans to station its new Boeing F-15EX Eagle II fighters at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base (ANGB) – home of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing (FW) – due to the air arm’s growing focus on the Indo-Pacific theatre.
Located in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Kingsley Field ANGB and its resident 173rd FW are currently responsible for training pilots to fly the USAF’s legacy fleet of F-15C/D Eagle fighters – an ageing mission that the air arm is actively looking to replace and modernise. In August 2020, the USAF announced that the 173rd FW would be the first to receive the F-15EX in 2024, with the wing set to continue as the Formal Training Unit (FTU) for Eagle II aircrews. Subsequently, the 142nd FW ‘Redhawks’ – also a component of the Oregon ANG – will serve as the first operational F-15EX unit, with the wing set to convert to the platform by 2025 and be responsible for conducting critical homeland defence alert missions from Portland ANGB.
However, the 173rd FW revealed on February 28 that the USAF is now actively reconsidering its plan to base the F-15EX at Kingsley Field. The announcement came just weeks after the USAF shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon after it had traversed the continental US, an event which was followed by three more shootdowns of suspicious objects over US and Canadian airspace. In a press release, the wing said: “In 2020, it was announced that Kingsley Field would transition to an F-15EX mission, but due to the strategic focus in the Indo-Pacific Command theatre, this plan is being reconsidered.”
Despite this revelation, the USAF remains keen on replacing the ageing F-15C/D mission that is currently being carried out by the 173rd FW, but the Oregon ANG-operated Eagles may not necessarily be replaced by the Eagle II. “Plans are underway to evaluate Kingsley Field’s infrastructure and airspace suitability for a replacement mission to its aging F-15C/Ds… Several agencies are scheduled to visit in the next few months to gather information that will help determine the Department of the Air Force’s decision regarding what mission will be best suited for the 173rd FW,” the wing explained.
At present, the 173rd is playing an integral part in the process of redistributing F-15C/Ds that were formerly operated by the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. These aircraft are actively being delivered to Kingsley Field, where maintainers from the 173rd are preparing them to be transferred to other operational units or to be flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona to be placed into long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).
Commenting on the USAF’s move to reconsider plans to base the F-15EX at Kingsley Field, Col Lee R Bouma – commander of the 173rd FW – said: “Kingsley Field is an integral piece of the Air Force’s modernisation plan. Our vast airspace, a culture of excellence, and unprecedented community support make us a viable fit to continue our legacy of training the next generation of fighter pilots.”