Oregon is Eagle country, with over 50 of the world’s most proven air superiority fighters calling the state home. But before that, Oregon was Viper, Phantom, Delta Dart, Voodoo, Delta Dagger, Scorpion, Starfire, Sabre, Shooting Star, Mustang, and Thunderbolt country. So, to put it lightly, the state’s Air Guard has a rich and diverse flying heritage.
Our good friend and warbird photographer extraordinaire, Lyle Jansma, took to the air with the Oregon Air National Guard’s gorgeous “screaming Eagle” 75th anniversary F-15C, as well as the P-51 Mustang “Val-Halla” and the T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker II” for what has to be one of the coolest heritage photo flights of all time.
In typical Jansma fashion, Lyle framed the Eagle and its wingmen perfectly against Oregon’s iconic Mt Hood.
After the sunset photo flight concluded, the trio recovered at Hillsboro Airport in front of a big crowd that had gathered for the Hillsboro International Airshow’s evening show.
Today, the 123rd Fighter Squadron “Redhawks,” who are based out of Portland International Airport, are one of only five F-15C/D squadrons that protect America’s coastal borders. But air sovereignty is just one of the unit’s missions. The USAF has shrunk in size markedly over the last decade or so; as such Guard units are now really front-line, and are regularly called upon for deployments. Their gear is also no longer years removed from their active force compatriots. The F-15Cs flown by the Redhawks, many of them outfitted with the incredibly powerful APG-63V3 Active Electronically Scanned Array radars, are just as capable, if not more, than the jets flying with the three active USAF F-15C/D squadrons that remain.
The 114th Fighter Squadron, based out of Kingsley Airfield in Klamath Falls, also flies the F-15C/D, but for a very different mission: it's the Air Force’s sole F-15C/D training unit. Dubbed the “land of no slack” due to the extremely high standards to which Eagle Driver trainees are held, the 114th has a critical role, now more than ever, as the Eagle is slated to continue in service for decades to come. By the time they're finally retired, the youngest airframes will be over 50 years old—or about double the age of the young aspiring Eagle pilots that the squadron will be training at the time.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com