As the US Air Force (USAF) continues to rapidly withdraw its Boeing F-15C/D Eagles from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, the US Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) 144th Fighter Wing (FW) at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport in California has revealed that it received three of the former Japan-based fighters in December.
The 144th FW announced on January 13 that it is one of the few ANG units to absorb Kadena’s outgoing Eagles, adding that it received three single-seat F-15Cs (including serial 85-0123) from the Okinawa base’s resident 18th Wing following their reassignment back to the continental US. The acquisition of these additional Eagles enables the 144th FW to remain combat capable and maintain the unit’s current flying tempo.
Commenting on the addition of the former Kadena-based Eagles to the 144th FW’s fleet, Senior Master Sgt Derek Trautmiller – production superintendent with the 144th Maintenance Squadron – said: “Getting these aircraft here has been a tremendous help in bolstering our inventory. It keeps us combat capable, and that’s our mission.”
As each of the three F-15Cs are delivered to the 144th FW, they will be put through an extensive and rigorous acceptance inspection, which includes the verifying of serial numbers; inspection of egress and avionics systems; and checking of all the aircraft’s mechanical systems to make sure they are functioning correctly. This process usually takes place within a two-week window but can take longer. Following this, the newly acquired Eagles will be used to support the 144th FW’s core mission of defending US domestic airspace.
The USAF announced plans to withdraw its F-15C/Ds from Kadena in a report released on October 27, 2022, with the aim of removing all Eagles from the air arm’s Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) command by the end of this year. While there will be no permanent replacement for the F-15C/Ds formerly assigned to the 18th Wing at Kadena, there will be regular rotational deployments of USAF fighters to the Japanese base to ensure there is no capability gap. To aid this rapid transition, Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, deployed to Kadena on November 4, 2022. These were joined by eight F-16CM Fighting Falcons assigned to the 52nd FW at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, which arrived in Okinawa on January 16.
As the USAF continues to modernise its overall fighter fleet and as more Kadena-based Eagles are reassigned back to the continental US, the 144th FW expects to receive more F-15Cs going forward. The wing will continue operating the Eagle until the USAF decides to transition the unit to a new platform.