Fresno Air National Guard Base, Calif. --
F-15C Eagles from the 144th Fighter Wing’s 194th Fighter Squadron participated for the first time in an Orange Flag exercise along with multiple airframes to test communication interoperability in air space over California’s Mojave Desert Dec. 10, 2019. The evaluation is a quarterly large-force exercise hosted by the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Its primary purpose is to test air-to-air and air-to-ground communication systems between multiple aircraft and platforms.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremy Vanderhal, 194th Fighter Squadron pilot, flew one of the two F-15Cs involved in the exercise. He explained why this mission was unique.
“The sorties that we fly regularly focus on tactical execution and training for how we would employ the Eagle in combat,” said Vanderhal.
“Orange Flag did not focus on tactics at all, but rather the systems that can support us in combat.”
Vanderhal continued, “Often in a tactical sortie, there isn’t enough time to concentrate solely on our displays and all the information they provide. OFE allowed us the time to focus exclusively on those displays and really dig in to the various options that are available.”
In addition to the F-15Cs, other aircraft involved in the exercise included F-16C/Ds, F-35s, F-18E/Fs, F-18Gs, F-22s, and a B-2. For many pilots, an exercise, which includes so many aircrafts at one time, is a rarity.
“For me personally, it was the first time I’d worked alongside F-35s,” said Vanderhal.
As participants in this modernization exercise, the Griffins flew with aircraft and aircrew from America’s premiere Navy and Air Force test centers based out of China Lake Naval Air Station and Edwards AFB.
Lt. Col. Kees Allamandola, 144th Fighter Wing Program Manager, coordinated the 144th FW’s involvement in Orange Flag. As a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, he pushed for the 144th FW to participate in Orange Flag, ensuring that Griffin pilots directly experience enhanced communication systems for the F-15C and related airframes. To participate in the exercise, the fighter jets were equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and radar equipment.
“These missions verified the path for improved lethality and survivability amongst our early look developmental programs,” said Allamandola. “The future growth capabilities they tested were the finer points of interoperability between airborne assets across fourth and fifth generation aircraft, enhancing capabilities.”
Lt. Col. Allamandola also praised the maintainers for making the F-15Cs ready.
“Staff Sgt. Jamie Mabry Rairigh along with Capt. Ben Martin successfully prepared unique test avionics, ensuring electronic interoperability objectives were met,” said Allamandola.
“Additionally, the 144th maintainers flawlessly readied the aircraft with special radars to meet all the objectives for this event.”