As told by Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson, 173rd Fighter Wing, in the article Kingsley Field welcomes Kadena Air Base Eagles, that announcement kicks off a process of ferrying nearly 50 fighter aircraft across the Pacific Ocean back to the US mainland—a task with many challenges.
They need a place to go–not just any place but a secure military installation with the room to park them, and with a team of people who understand the care and feeding the Eagle requires.
It’s a problem with a ready solution—Kingsley Field, the home of the 173rd Fighter Wing, located on the west Coast in Southern Oregon, has extensive ramp space and whose Eagle Keepers are proficient at keeping them airworthy every day.
“Kingsley’s geographic location on the West Coast makes it an easy choice due to the proximity of the stop-over location, Hickam Air Force Base,” said Col. Adam Gaudinski, the 173rd Maintenance Group commander. “Additionally, we were chosen due to our vast maintenance experience, unique capabilities, and our immense ramp and hangar space.”
When these aircraft arrive, which began Dec. 4, 2022, Kingsley maintainers “catch” them and inspect them for any issues following their transit of the Pacific Ocean.
“When the jets are ready, Kingsley will coordinate with gaining units to come pick up their aircraft,” said Gaudinski, “Also, Kingsley will welcome several of the Kadena aircraft into our current fleet.”
Finally, the disposition process means that several aircraft will retire to the “Boneyard” in sunny Tucson, Arizona.
Currently the wing has accepted 14 Kadena F-15 Eagles and will send seven of them to new homes across the nation, including guard units in California, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. Four of them will retire to the Boneyard and three of them will call the 173rd Fighter Wing home.
“We were able to ensure all aircraft were ‘Code-1’ within 24-hours of their arrival,” Gaudinski said of the initial aircraft arrival on Friday. “Code-1” is maintenance shorthand for a jet that ready to fly immediately. “This permits aircraft to be flown to their gaining units as rapidly as possible.”
The quick turn-around is helpful to the process as more jets are scheduled to arrive as early as next week. The process will continue until the entire fleet of Kadena Air Base F-15s leave the base, the first time that has happened since 1979.
The 18th Wing, originally known as the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, received its first F-15C on Sep. 29, 1979. The 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, “The Fighting Cocks”, was the first squadron to become fully operational with the Eagle within the Pacific Air Forces.
Since then, the F-15C/D has ensured air superiority for the US and its allies across the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility, while also supporting multiple deployments within the US Central Command area of responsibility.
As already reported, as part of its modernization plan, the US Air Force is retiring the aging fleet of F-15C/D Eagle aircraft that have been in service for more than four decades. The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a steady-state fighter presence at Kadena by temporarily deploying newer and more advanced aircraft to backfill the F-15s as they retrograde to the US.
Already, F-22s from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, have arrived at the base. The service has said the F-15C/Ds will initially be replaced by a rotation of deployed fighters, while a permanent replacement has not yet been named, though it is likely to be the F-15EX. F-16s from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, are expected to follow the F-22s.
Photo credit: Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar / U.S. Air National Guard
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