Every now and then a video pops up that is worth its own space at Airheadsfly.com. On Tuesday 2 June, the Dutch ministry of Defense published gear footage of a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16 pilot sharing the sky with a US Air National Guard F-15 Eagle, but also exchanging some simulated hostilities during Dissimilar air combat training (DACT).
The video was made earlier this Spring, when twelve F-15 Eagles of the Florida Air National Guard’s 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed to Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. A story on that – also with video! – is here.
The Eagles later took part in exercise Frisian Flag (see here and here for more vids) and are currently deployed to Bulgaria.
The US moved one of its top air-to-air assets far into Eastern Europe this week, by sending Louisiana Air National Guard F-15s to Graf Ignatievo airbase in Bulgaria. They will participate in exercise Thracian Eagle 2015, together with the Bulgarian Air Forces’ MiG-29s and Su-25s. The US F-15s currently at Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands are also expected to re-deploy to Bulgaria.
The Eagles currently already in Bulgaria are part of the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing, based at Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. The F-15s first arrived in Europe earlier in April, flying into Lakenheath airbase in the UK. The aircraft along with with 150 personnel, have now moved on to Bulgaria.
Fighting Falcons are a familiar sight in the skies over the Dutch airbase of Leeuwarden. But these days Eagles join them. They are US Air National Guard F-15 Eagle air superiority aircraft and they deployed from the US to Leeuwarden last week as part of US operation Atlantic Resolve. Soon, they’ll soar over more of Europe. Good news for Eagle fans. Lt. Col. Paul Reedy, commander of the Florida Air National Guard’s 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, is one of them.
“Undefeated in aerial combat.” That about sums up the F-15 Eagle in the eyes of Reedy, who commands the twelve aircraft that flew to Leeuwarden last week along with personnel from the Florida Air National Guard. The deployment also involves staff from Air National Guard units in California, Massachusetts and Oregon, with the latter also providing six aircraft.
The ferry flight from Jacksonville, Florida, was quite eventful, says Reedy. “We postponed our arrival by one day due to turbulence of the Atlantic. We would have had a nice tail wind on the way over here, but that same tail wind would have made for turbulence and quite an uncomfortable ride. When we finally arrived the winds at Leeuwarden were up to 50 knots. In Florida we are used to thunderstorms but not winds that strong. However, there was a window in the weather that allowed us to land here.”
Today, on 8 April, the pilots are flying joint tactical missions with Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16s, in preparation for large scale military exercise Frisian Flag, kicking of on 13 April at Leeuwarden. Also joining the exercise are Eurofighter Typhoons from Germany, F-18 Hornets from Finland and Spain, plus Polish F-16s. Reedy: “Our goals are to work on our interoperability with different NATO partners and we’ll be working on our offensive and defensive air-to-air techniques. I myself look forward to meeting Eurofighter Typhoon in the air, as I personally haven’t done that yet. It’s a great learning opportunity.”
About half of the Eagles deployed to Leeuwarden are equipped with the very latest APG-63(V)3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. “The F-15 was a great air-to-air platform when it was originally built in the seventies and it still is today. Between then and now we’ve undergone many upgrades of our avionics plus offensive and defense systems. They continue to give us a lethal platform today and into the future”, says Reedy. His tactical nickname is ‘Stoner’ and as a seven year old he dreamed of flying the Eagle. Reedy now has 1,600 hours on type.
That lethality is exactly the US wants to show Russia. The F-15s at Leeuwarden are in fact a Theater Security Package (TSP) the US has sent as a show of force to Europe’s Eastern neighbour, the second since US Air Force A-10C “Warthogs” arrived in Germany last February. Those A-10s have been across Europe as well. Just like the Warthogs the Eagles at Leeuwarden will stay on the continent for six months, with personnel rotating. “After taking part in Frisian Flag, we are heading to Graf Ignatievo Airbase in Bulgaria. There we will also train with NATO allies,” says Reedy.
First, on this murky Wednesday in April, there’s training to be done with Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s. Four Fighting Falcons and four Eagles loudly take off for an air-to-air combat mission. In April the F-15 Eagle will be a familiar sight in the skies over the Netherlands. In fact, it will be a familiar sight in the skies all over Europe for months to come. Surely the predator will be noticed.
The news was ‘unofficial’ for a long time, but now the US Air National Guard has confirmed 12 Boeing F-15C Eagles are heading for Europe for various exercises and as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The Eagles from the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, form the second Theater Security Package (TSP) after the A-10’s that were sent to Spangdahlem, Germany, in February.
UPDATE 3 April | The Eagles arrived in the Netherlands on 31 March and 1 April. Several belong to the Oregon Air National Guard rather than the Florida Air National Guard. The US pilots started flying missions with Dutch F16s on 3 April.
The 125th Fighter Wing is normally based at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida. Each US state has its own Air National Guard, and along with the US Air Force, these units form an integral part of US air power.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is the name the US gave to its increased military effort in Europe, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea over a year ago, plus the more recent fighting in Eastern Ukraine.