F-15E’S WEAPONS SYSTEMS OFFICERS EXPLAIN WHAT IT’S LIKE FIGHTING DAESH FROM THE STRIKE EAGLE’S REAR COCKPIT

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Flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve USAF F-15E Strike Eagles have contributed to destroying or damaging Daesh financial resources, command and control and logistics lines

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night, and in all weather.

The aircraft uses two crew members, a pilot and a weapons systems officer (WSO). Previous models of the F-15 are assigned air-to-air roles; the “E” model is a dual-role fighter. It has the capability to fight its way to a target over long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions and fight its way out.

One of the most important additions to the F-15E is the rear cockpit, and the weapons systems officer. On four screens, this officer can display information from the radar, electronic warfare or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic “moving map” to navigate. Two hand controls are used to select new displays and to refine targeting information. Displays can be moved from one screen to another, chosen from a “menu” of display options.

Because of these features, flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) U.S. Air Force (USAF) Strike Eagles have contributed to destroying or damaging Daesh financial resources, command and control and logistics lines.

Mudhen’s (as the F-15E is nicknamed by its aircrews) WSOs are aware of the importance of teamwork when flying and employing precision ordnance from the vantage point of the two-seat Strike Eagle.

“The great thing about a two-seat aircraft is that we can divide out duties and be more effective,” said Capt. Dan. “The pilot in the front seat can coordinate for airspace and refueling, while the WSO in the backseat can talk to the Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground, find a target and have a weapon ready to drop.”

F-15E Strike Eagle 366th Fighter Wing, 391st Fighter Squadron, MO/90-0249 – Mountain Home AFB, ID – 2008 – Profile Print by AircraftProfilePrints.com

Maj. Justin, also a Strike Eagle WSO, explained how various organizations work together to successfully destroy a target. JTACs determine target locations from strike cells, while unmanned aerial vehicles and intelligence personnel deliver imagery and situation updates. Weather personnel provide updated briefings, maintainers work day and night to prepare the jets to fly, and airfield management Airmen clear the airfield for appropriate munitions, according to Justin.

“The aircrew specifically will talk to a half-dozen agencies before even getting to an area where a strike can take place,” said Justin. “In the end it is a very complicated process that takes everyone doing their part to get the bomb on target.”

Once in flight, a WSO has several things running through its mind in preparation for strike operations. According to Capt. Dan, there are a number of checklist items that must be calculated to ensure the precision and accuracy that are hallmarks of this war.

“There are dozens of ‘what ifs’ you must consider as well,” said Dan. “You must always be prepared and thinking ahead because it can go from zero to 100 in a split second.” The Coalition is able to strike more lucrative targets to include logistics, command and control, weapons manufacturing areas, and Daesh financial resources and monetary centers to greater effect.

Maj Justin discussed the precision and care that is taken when employing targets.

“The targets I’m assigned to destroy have been vetted through the most professional members of our armed services, and [I know] that others are taking their jobs as seriously as I am,” said Justin.

Destroying critical targets that diminish the capabilities of terrorist organizations and protecting ground troops are critically important mission areas, according to Capt. Dan.

“We are here to provide support to [indigenous] troops on the ground,” said Dan. “So it is a good feeling to know that we can help keep them safe.”

Source: A backseat view of combat airstrikes, by Capt. Sybil Taunton, 380 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs and U.S. Air Force; Photo credit: Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride and Airman Miranda A. Loera / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com