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    Oregon’s Air Defense Takes a Quantum Leap with Cutting-Edge F-15EX Jets

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    Oregon’s Air National Guard is poised for a significant transformation as it prepares to welcome a fleet of 18 state-of-the-art F-15EX fighter jets, enhancing its defense capabilities and asserting its commitment to safeguarding U.S. airspace. This update will mark a pivotal moment in the history of the 142nd Wing, stationed adjacent to Portland International Airport, as it transitions from operating the venerable F-15Cs to embracing the advanced F-15EX, complete with cutting-edge military technology.

    Lt. Col Scott Wilcox, commander of the 142nd Civil Engineering Squadron, captured the significance of the upgrade, declaring, “This is an immense deal for Oregon.” The sentiment is widely shared, reflecting the strategic value these jets hold for regional and national defense.

    The F-15EX represents a modern evolution of the classic F-15, boasting enhanced capabilities far surpassing those of the outgoing F-15Cs, the newest of which rolled out in 1985. With the addition of jamming and self-protection features, these new aircraft will significantly increase the operational effectiveness of the Oregon Air National Guard. “Our current airplanes have no jamming capability. We have no self-protection capability really. The newer airplanes have got all that stuff,” explained Col. Mike Kosderka, commander of the 142nd Wing.

    The financial investment for this advancement is considerable. The total cost of acquiring these cutting-edge jets amounts to approximately $1.7 billion, with each unit carrying a price tag of $95 million. Furthermore, an estimated additional $110 million is allocated for the construction of new hangars, necessary to accommodate the sensitive technology onboard the F-15EX.

    Despite the notable influx of sophisticated machinery, the staffing levels at the base are not projected to increase. However, a shift in training requirements will be inevitable, as pilots adapt to the capabilities of the new F-15EX. In tandem with aircraft upgrades, the Air National Guard is also erecting a new facility for the 125th Special Tactics Squadron to enhance their global mission readiness.

    This sweeping modernization effort claims a substantial portion of the Air National Guard’s construction budget, with Lt. Col. Wilcox estimating Oregon’s share at about 40%. The changes reflect not only on the 142nd Wing but also across Oregon’s military installations. Camp Rilea’s 116th Air Control Squadron is transitioning to cyber defense, while Kingsley Field gears up to train pilots on another technologically advanced combat aircraft, the F-35.

    The strategic integration of the F-15EX is crafted to ensure near-total compatibility with the F-15C models, allowing a seamless transition with minimal operational disruption. Lt. Col. Nathan Rice, the unit conversion officer, emphasized the objective, stating, “The whole purpose of the conversion team is to help the base transition in a seamless manner.”

    As the Oregon Air National Guard anticipates the commencement of the F-15EX arrival this summer, behind the scenes lies a complex preparation effort. A dedicated conversion team of four experts oversees the base’s readiness, collaborating with various groups to manage the logistical, structural, and training challenges of the transition.

    The 142nd Wing’s experienced team is working closely with Test and Evaluation at Eglin Air Force Base, the National Guard Bureau, Air Combat Command, and Boeing to outline the needs for infrastructure and equipment. “The F-15EX is almost 90 percent compatible with the F-15C model,” said Rice, highlighting the benefits of this close compatibility.

    Maintaining the current F-15C fleet has become increasingly challenging, as pointed out by Chief Master Sergeant Norio Colipano, who is in charge of the maintenance side of the conversion.

    The availability of replacement parts for the aging C models, dating back to the ’70s, is dwindling. This transition to the F-15EX offers a much-needed solution, although it may also introduce new complexities, such as potential adjustments to different engine types.

    The precise number of F-15EX jets designated for the Portland Air National Guard Base remains to be determined, as allocations are also considered for Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base.

    Nevertheless, Colipano is determined to ensure a robust conversion process: “We want to get into this conversion running instead of crawling or walking, so we’re trying to prepare our people in the operations and maintenance groups now.”

    While these developments may be unnoticeable to the general public, they represent a tremendous leap forward in air defense capabilities.

    For the Oregon Air National Guard, it’s an era of enhanced readiness, ushering in a future where the skies are protected by the most advanced technology available.

    Relevant articles:
    Oregon Air National Guard base set to receive new jets and a massive overhaul, newsbreak.com
    The 142nd Wing gears up for the new F-15EX, National Guard Bureau (.mil)

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