Keeping Sharp

Airmen of the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla., earlier this month tested their ability to respond rapidly to defend the nation’s airspace during an Operation Noble Eagle exercise. Base members had to scramble the wing’s F-15 Eagles as quickly as possible in scenarios devised to provide an accurate replication of real-world events against an airspace intruder. “Maintaining air superiority takes more than pilots in airplanes, it takes lots of maintenance personnel, planners, communications specialists, and command/control personnel,” said Lt. Col. David McClanahan, chief of plans and programs for the wing. He continued, “We have to practice working together so it’s flawless when we’re tasked to do the real thing.” During an actual ONE mission, Eglin’s F-15s might shadow, intercept, escort, provide aid to, or, if necessary, use force against an aircraft intruding US airspace. For the exercise, low-flying Civil Air Patrol Cessna 206 and Cessna 337 aircraft flew into a simulated “no-fly” zone and the Eglin F-15s intercepted them. Maj. Jonathan Bland, commander of the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, noted, “The exercise gives our maintainers a chance to become more comfortable with that process and improve our speed so that we will be in top shape when called for a real mission.” (Eglin report by Chrissy Cuttita)