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The Eagle's Nest: 35 Years of Kadena's F-15s

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
  • 18 Wing Public Affairs
September 29, 2014, marks an anniversary for arguably one of the most effective, battle-tested and world-feared pieces of equipment to join the Keystone of the Pacific's full-time arsenal.

When the Eagle's wheels first touched Kadena's flightline in the fall of 1979, F-15C and D models were still fresh off the production line. But like so many seasoned veterans, the Eagle and the Okinawa squadrons that flew them have had to adapt to counter the ever-changing threat over the years.

While most people don't maintain a personal vehicle for more than 10 years, the Air Force maintainers and operators here have ensured the safe operation of the airframe throughout the years with countless thorough inspections and repairs.

At Kadena alone, the F-15C/D squadrons have earned the title of best Air Force fighter squadron of the year and the prestigious Raytheon Trophy, formerly the Hughes Trophy, nine times since the aircraft's arrival.

For three and a half decades, the Kadena-stationed F-15C Eagle, a twin-engine, air superiority fighter jet, has maintained a prominent presence within the Asia-Pacific region and an indisputable role in Air Force mission security around the globe.

With a perfect record of more than 100 confirmed kills and no combat losses in operations and contingencies ranging from Turkey and Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Eagle has proven itself time and again. The jet is responsible for 34 of the 37 Air Force air-to-air victories in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

"The plane itself is amazing," said 1st Lt. Lance Coldren, 67th Fighter Squadron historian and F-15 pilot. "It'll always take you to war and bring you back - the 104-0 combat record proves that. Since Korea, there's never been an American ground troop attacked by (enemy) aircraft because of our air superiority, and the Eagle has been a part of that since it entered service.

"I think it's really cool to fly such an old jet that was built ... and designed before I was born, and it's still prevalent today," Coldren said. "It's still one of our forefronts of our air superiority today. I like the mission ... It's fun, challenging, exciting."

Much like the aircraft's predecessor, the F-4 Phantom, which was upgraded several times before being retired, the Eagle advanced a few of its own major components - the central computer, a Programmable Armament Control Set, and of course radar, which received another round of upgrades this year.

"It was called the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1979 ... The first were assigned to the 67th, 44th, and 12th Fighter Squadrons and replaced the F-4C Phantoms," said Casey Connell, former 18th Wing historian. "It had better range, avionics and air-to-air capability."

However, as it replaced F-4 before it, so too will the Eagle see the end of its career someday - after all, it's already older than most junior enlisted Airmen and young NCOs that maintain it. Though the longevity is an obvious testament to the original aeronautical engineers who designed the jet and maintainers who repair it today, it's still only a matter of time before the new generation of multi-role fighter jets replaces F-15s for good.

It's apparent Eagles have already left behind a prevalent airborne history. Until the day it says goodbye to the Pacific and retires, the jet will continue to take to the skies alongside other U.S. Department of Defense and allied nations' aircraft.