The U.S. Air Force is replacing F-15C Eagles of Kadena Air Base, Japan with a rotating force of fighters according to official Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
That announcement kicks off a process of ferrying nearly 50 fighter aircraft across the Pacific Ocean back to the United States 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.
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