Old and new on this archive photo from June 1, 2012. With the 120th Fighter Wing F-15s standing in line at Great Falls to meet their successor: the armless Lockheed C-130 Hercules (Image Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson © USAF)

ANG 120th FW wings clipped, combat status lost

Old and new on this archive photo from June 1, 2012. With the 120th Fighter Wing F-15s standing in line at Great Falls to meet their successor: the armless Lockheed C-130 Hercules (Image Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson © USAF)
Old and new on this archive photo from June 1, 2012. With the 120th Fighter Wing F-15s standing in line at Great Falls to meet their successor: the armless Lockheed C-130 Hercules (Image Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson © USAF)

The last three F-15 Eagles departed the 120th Fighter Wing of the USAF Montana Air National Guard at Great Falls, making the flying unit wingless until the introduction of the Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft in 2014.

Currently Montana ANG air and ground crews are training on the C-130 at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. The transfer from fighter unit to transport unit will have a big impact on the guard unit.

The 120th Fighter Wing originated in 1947 as the 186th Fighter Squadron, flying F-51’s and saw combat in Korea in 1951 – 1952. In 1953, the 186th was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the F-86 Sabre Jet. From 1958 to 1996 the unit was on a 5-day runway scramble alert, all the time, by flying the Sabre, the F-102 Delta Dagger (introduction 1966), the F-106 Delta Dart (intr. 1972) and the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon (intr. 1987).

The last couple of years have been a bit rough for the unit. Within a 15 year span the 120th Fighter Wing moved from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D to the F-15C/D Eagle and will now receive the C-130, making the fighter unit loose its combat status. The less flashy transport and support task is now its future.

The former Montana F-15 Eagles are now used by the 194th Fighter Squadron of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard. This unit, based at Fresno, CA, previously flew F-16s for a long time. As the unit is reponsible for air defence over California, it had been pushing for F-15 Eagles instead of F-16 for many years

Source: USAF with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger & Elmer van Hest