From the F-16 to the F-15; Future Operating Capability
By Staff Sgt. Christian Jadot, 144 FW
/ Published January 29, 2016
Fresno, Calif. --
It has been over two years since the 144th Fighter Wing started converting to a different type of aircraft to ensure the future operating capability of the unit.
The 144th FW, out of Fresno, Calif., is preparing to declare that it is a fully operational F-15C Eagle unit on March 1, 2016.
The 144th FW stopped flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon on Sept. 30, 2013 and started the conversion to the F-15C Eagle. It only took one year for the wing to resume flying operations.
"Changing air frames is a complex process. If you are qualified on one airplane, it does not mean you are qualified to fly another. There is training involved to make you combat capable," said Col. Clay Garrison, 144th FW commander. "It is especially true when you look at the maintenance side of the airplane and the logistics that goes into that airframe. It all takes time, the process usually takes three years; we started this process 25 months ago."
With the help of other units across the nation, the 144th FW was able to pull ahead of the clock in the conversion process. "We really started the process two years before we were actually flying the F-15C here locally," Col. Garrison said. "We started training F-15C pilots in the pipeline and then farmed them out across the nation so they could become proficient in the Eagle."
The other F-15C fighter wings that helped out were Barnes, Mass., Jacksonville, Fla., New Orleans, La., and Portland, Ore. All four accepted pilots that were sent through training at Klamath Falls, Ore. The Fellow Air Guard units were able to let the 144th pilots fly with them for two years until the 144th FW started flying the fighter in Fresno.
According to Garrison this approach smoothed the way for an easier transition to the F-15C.
The pilots were not the only focus during the conversion. The maintainers also required intensive re-training to learn the operating systems of the new aircraft. While the pilots and four jets were at Klamath Falls, three groups of 40 maintenance personnel from various back shops deployed to the 173rd FW for on the job training.
"It has paid huge dividends, not only did we get those five extra pilots, but we got 120 experienced and confident maintainers out of it. It has made all the difference in the conversion," Col. Garrison said. "If you want to do this safely and want Airmen to gain experience quickly, the best way to do it is to send them to a place to get that experience. It has paid huge dividends; we are 7 months ahead of our timeline."
According to Col. Garrison, a conversion does not happen without an entire wing's worth of effort.