Red Tail F-15E WSO hits 4,000 flight hours milestone

F-15E WSO hits 4,000 flight hours milestone

By Dario Leone
Mar 31 2018
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“High timer flyers may finish their careers between 1,500 or 3,000 total flying hours, 4,000 is off the charts,” Lt. Col. Matthew Swanson, 336th EFS commander

On Mar. 21, 2018 during a combat deployment at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Lt. Col. Trinidad “Moses” Meza, a weapons system officer (WSO) from the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) reached 4,000 flying hours, all of which were accrued in the F-15E Strike Eagle.

“It’s a pretty special feeling,” he said, “It’s an honor to be able to live out a childhood dream for 18 years.”

“It is incredible,” added Lt. Col. Matthew Swanson, 336th EFS commander. “I don’t know anyone who has reached 4,000 hours personally. Things like this are not routine. Some of our aircraft have just 8,000 hours on the air frame; some have 10,000 … Most people will have around 300 to 400 combat hours. If you really get a lot, you might tip 800 or 1,000 (which) is pretty rare.”

High timer flyers may finish their careers between 1,500 or 3,000 total flying hours, Swanson said, adding “4,000 is off the charts” and to be able to achieve such a thing, “he’s had to work hard and be good at what he does” which he has always done.

As told by Senior Airman Krystal Wright, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, in the article Soaring high: Red Tail WSO, mentor reaches 4,000 flying hours, Meza is currently on his ninth deployment, which he volunteered for. During this time, he has completed more than 50 sorties and about 270 combat hours. In his career total, he has completed more than 1,300 combat flying hours and about 1,920 sorties. His other deployments include Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar; Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates; Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; and Ethiopia.

At all of these assignments, he supported the F-15E as the WSO, which is one of only two crewmembers the aircraft carries, the other being the pilot.

During the air-to-surface weapon delivery, the pilot is capable of detecting, targeting and engaging air-to-air targets while the WSO designates the ground target. Meza, in the capacity of WSO, is able to 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.

“He is responsible for guiding in the bombs, for talking with the joint teams on the ground and understanding the ground scheme maneuver – he’s busy,” Swanson said.

Meza is also busy at his home station, Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada, as an operation test WSO.

F-15E print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-15E Strike Eagle 366th Fighter Wing, 391st Fighter Squadron, MO/90-0249 – Mountain Home AFB, ID – 2008

“We are charged with testing all the new software for the F-15E, any new weapon systems so that when they get released to the combat Air Forces they are ready to go,” he explained. “It’s very rewarding and a lot of fun.”

For example, he was part of the first aircrew that shot an operational AIM-9X off of an F-15E. He also flew in the first aircraft with the new radar that is currently being used.

“That is real exciting and because of that he knows how the jets are built, software and that sort of thing very well,” Swanson explained. “So, he has really been an asset when things aren’t working right or how to best deploy the aircraft with the systems we have. He has been a real value to the team”

There is no doubt that Meza is passionate about his job whether it is stateside or deployed.

“Flying an airplane is something I wanted to do since I was six years old,” he said, adding that he was inspired by the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. “This is my childhood dream come true. I have been able to fly with some pretty amazing people and flying is incredible. ”

This passion he shares along with his accumulative knowledge as he makes a point to take time to mentor.

“The reason I continue to do what I do is to … mentor (younger aviators) and provide advice based on past experiences,” said Meza, native of Gallup, New Mexico. “One of the things I enjoy most is watching young kids show up with no experience and full of energy – but no idea what to do with that energy – and molding them into professionals, leaders and well-seasoned, well-trained aviators.”

Red Tail F-15E WSO hits 4,000 flight hours milestone
Members of 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron presented Lt. Col. Trinidad “Moses” Meza, 336th EFS deputy operations group commander and weapons system officer, with a unit patch in honor of Meza reaching 4,000 flying hours March 21, 2018, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. Meza is currently on his ninth deployment.

Additional source: U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle factsheet

Photo credit: Senior Airman Krystal Wright / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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