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144th FW's First Active F-15 Air Scramble

FRESNO AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Calif -- The 144th Fighter Wing responded to its first F-15 active air scramble Feb. 13, when the North American Defense Command identified a general aviation aircraft in a Temporary Flight Restricted area above San Francisco.

Maj. Jonathan Burd and Capt. Andrew Armey, both 194th Fighter Squadron pilots, were on alert when the call to suit-up came in. "I was doing some studying when we got a suit-up call, which means put on all my gear," Armey said. "As we were driving out to the jets the actual horn went off and signaled battle stations, which means hop in the jet and be ready to go."

Armey said the scramble horn came on within two minutes of getting into the jets. "We blasted off from there," Armey said. "It was interesting because we weren't entirely sure where we were going yet. The short time in-between (the suit- up call and battle stations signal) did not give us the opportunity to get more details from command post aside from our initial vector out. But by working with air traffic control and getting in contact with the Western Air Defense Sector we figured out exactly what needed to be done."

According to Armey and Burd, they were instructed to intercept a total of five targets of interest that wandered into the TFR. Two TOI's were dropped while the pilots were on their way. "We intercepted the third aircraft that penetrated the TFR out of Half Moon Bay," Armey said. "We did multiple laps around him and eventually figured out what radio frequency he was on and instructed him to land immediately."

The alert pilots escorted the civilian aircraft until it landed before intercepting the next TOI. "We were in the middle of intercepting the fourth TOI when WADS told us we needed to split up to intercept another TOI," Burd said.

The fourth TOI, which Armey responded to, was around the Santa Cruz area and the fifth TOI, which Burd responded to, was about 70 miles north of Santa Cruz. Both alert pilots made their way back home shortly after.

The 144th FW continues to remain alert mission-ready at all times because of the teamwork put in by the entire base: from the Comptroller Flight ensuring the Alert Financial Plan is funded at all times, to the Intelligence Section obtaining intelligence updates from the Air Defense Sector through secure means during a scramble, and the Command Post serving as a 24-hour point of contact for the alert pilots, just to name a few. "We were ready," Burd said. "We're ready right now."