USAF to convert F-15C Formal Training Unit at Kingsley Field into a third F-35A FTU, drops F-15EX schoolhouse project to replace Oregon National Guard Eagles

USAF to convert F-15C Formal Training Unit at Kingsley Field into a third F-35A FTU, drops F-15EX schoolhouse project to replace Oregon National Guard Eagles

By Dario Leone
May 26 2023
Share this article

The decision to place the F-35A training squadron at Kingsley Field supersedes the previous announcement in 2020 that placed the F-15EX Eagle II schoolhouse at the base.

The Department of the Air Force plans to convert the F-15C Eagle Formal Training Unit at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, into a third F-35A Lightning II FTU, providing additional training capacity to the fifth-generation aircraft.

According to a Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs news release, the decision comes after the release of the Fiscal Year 2024 Presidential Budget request, which outlines the divestiture of the aging F-15C fleet.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, is expected to start hosting basic F-15 aircrew training in early 2026, after which, the aircrew will undergo training for their specific F-15 model at their first unit.

“Kingsley Field is an integral piece of the Air Force’s modernization plan,” said Col. Lee Bouma, 173rd Fighter Wing commander, in the article Air Force selects 173rd Fighter Wing as F-35 training squadron by Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs. “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.”

USAF to convert F-15C Formal Training Unit at Kingsley Field into a third F-35A FTU, drops F-15EX schoolhouse project to replace Oregon National Guard Eagles
Two US Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, fly off the wing of a F-15C Eagle assigned to the 173rd Fighter Wing, May 17, 2023, in the skies above Southern Oregon.

The F-35A Lightning II provides next-generation stealth capabilities to the U.S. and many US ally and partner nations with its aerodynamic performance, advanced integrated avionics, enhanced situational awareness and increased survivability. The F-35A is considered the cornerstone of the future fighter fleet and guarantees the long-term viability of the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd FW and continuation of its vital air superiority mission for many years to come.

“This decision validates the Wing’s exceptional performance,” said Bouma. “We have been in the training business since 1983–producing the best fighter pilots in the world for the U.S. Air Force. Team Kingsley’s ‘No Slack’ attitude and commitment to excellence is a key factor in this decision.”

The 173rd FW has been the premiere F-15C training base for the United States Air Force since 1998. The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the inventory beginning in 1979. The service is looking to replace the legacy fighters with state-of-the-art aircraft to better address future mission requirements.

As already reported, the US Air Force (USAF) announced in 2020 that the F-15EX schoolhouse was replacing its F-15C/Ds at Kingsley. However, the 173rd announced in February 2023 that the department was reconsidering that decision.

USAF to convert F-15C Formal Training Unit at Kingsley Field into a third F-35A FTU, drops F-15EX schoolhouse project to replace Oregon National Guard Eagles
Two US Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, fly off the wing of a F-15C Eagle assigned to the 173rd Fighter Wing, May 17, 2023, in the skies above Southern Oregon. The 173rd FW based out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon has been selected as the Air Force’s preferred location for the next F-35A Lighting II Formal Training Unit, and will begin transition to the new aircraft once the environmental impact analysis is complete.

“The Air Force continues to modernize the fleet to ensure a more lethal, resilient, sustainable, and agile force,” said Bouma. “The Air Force recognizes that the 173rd Fighter Wing is essential to this future.”

The decision to place the F-35A training squadron at Kingsley Field supersedes the previous announcement in 2020 that placed the F-15EX Eagle II schoolhouse at the base.

“The Eagle II is a fantastic aircraft, and Team Kingsley was ready and willing to take on that mission,” said Bouma. “However, our strategic focus has shifted since 2020; the Air Force needs F-35 squadrons available and fully mission capable to prevail against peer adversaries…that means they require more F-35 pilots. Team Kingsley’s adaptability and excellence allows us to fill this Air Force need.”

Kingsley Field will receive 20 F-35As to replace its 27 F-15C/Ds once the environmental impact analysis is completed, which is expected in 2025.

With this basing decision, new construction or remodeling of existing facilities will occur; however, Kingsley Field already offers much of the infrastructure needed. Any construction would begin after the ROD is signed, expected in 2025 with first F-35 aircraft to follow.

F-35A print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

On May 15, 2023 a 173rd FW F-15D departed the runway during landing at Kingsley Field. The aircraft was returning to base following a routine training mission.

Upon landing the aircraft left the paved surface and came to a stop in the Bureau of Reclamation irrigation canal at the south side of the runway.

There was one crew member on board the aircraft. The F-15 instructor pilot exited the aircraft safely and was transported to Sky Lakes Medical Center as a precaution and for evaluation. He was then released with minor injuries.

As of September 2022, the USAF has only a few F-15Ds left in its inventory and most of them are assigned to Air National Guard units. They are on average more than 30 years old.

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Penny Snoozy / U.S. Air National Guard

F-15 model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Share this article

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.
Share this article


Share this article
Back to top