The Most Patriotic F-15 Ever

One of the true classics of modern military combat aircraft, the F-15, already looks great and an Air National Guard unit just turned up the volume.

The California-based 144th Fighter Wing traces its lineage to 1943 and since 2013 has been flying F-15C Eagles out of the Fresno Air National Guard Base. To mark the passage of one Eagle, Tail Flash #113, logging an amazing 10,000 flight hours on its airframe, the unit applied a special Stars & Stripes paint scheme. Along with the flag motif, the fighter also carries a stylized eagle with its talons out and an emblem emblazoned with “Peace Through Air Dominance.”

(Photos: Master Sgt. Charles Vaughn & Staff Sgt. Mercedes Taylor/U.S. Air National Guard)

(Photos: Master Sgt. Charles Vaughn & Staff Sgt. Mercedes Taylor/U.S. Air National Guard)

(Photos: Master Sgt. Charles Vaughn & Staff Sgt. Mercedes Taylor/U.S. Air National Guard)

(Photos: Master Sgt. Charles Vaughn & Staff Sgt. Mercedes Taylor/U.S. Air National Guard)

(Photos: Master Sgt. Charles Vaughn & Staff Sgt. Mercedes Taylor/U.S. Air National Guard)

(Photos: Master Sgt. Charles Vaughn & Staff Sgt. Mercedes Taylor/U.S. Air National Guard)

The (85)113 flash on #113 denotes the plane as a Cold War vet, a 1985-vintage F-15C-40-MC type aircraft. The fact that one of these 37-year-old birds is still around in such good (apparent) shape, with 10K hours on its frame, is a testament to the type and its maintainers. Akin relatively to a WWII-era P-51 Mustang still in active service in 1982 if you think about it.

While I don’t think you would want to dogfight a fifth-generation fighter like a J-20 or Su-57 with this old girl, she is still good enough to tote a brace of AMRAAMs and zap Air Defense Zone targets past visual range with the help of an E-3 or some other advanced control assistance. 

As noted by the Air Force, F-15C fighters accounted for 34 of the 37 air-to-air victories in the first Gulf War. Little reason why the Eagle is (interchangeably with the F-4 Phantom of the Vietnam era) often described as “The World’s Largest Distributor of MiG Parts.”

For those curious, F-15C-40-MC Eagle Serial #: 968/C355 (85-0113) has been seen in the past on active service with the 33rd TFW out of Eglin (likely in Desert Storm) and with the 94th FS out of Langley. Then it was put in the second string with the 131st FS/104th FW of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and, for most of the past decade with the 144th.

The circa 1985 Eagles are evidently of a good vintage. Of the 20 other planes in 113’s batch, at least seven are MiG killers:

  • 0108 MSN 0962/C350. (33rd FW, 58th FS) flown by Capt Rhory R. Draeger shot down MiG-29 Jan 17, 1991, Desert Storm.
  • 0109 MSN 0963/C351. (58th FS, 33rd FW) Capt Rick Tollini, shot down MiG-25 of Iraqi AF 97 Sqn on 19th January 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.
  • 0114 MSN 0969/C356. (33rd FW, 58th FS) flown by Capt. Cesar Rodriguez destroyed MiG-25 of Iraqi AF 97 Sqdn by ACM on Jan 19, 1991, during Desert Storm
  • 0119 MSN 0975/C361 (33rd FW, 58th FS) Piloted by Capt John Kelk, made the first aerial kill of Operation Desert Storm in the early hours of Jan 17, 1991, by shooting down Iraqi MiG. Later the same day, piloted by Capt Rhory Draeger, shot down 2 Iraqi AF MiG-29s in company with Capt Charles Magill in 85-0125.
  • 0122 MSN 0978/C364. (33rd FW, 58th FS) flown by Capt. Craig w. Underhill shot down IrAF MiG-29 Iraqi AF 39 Sqdn with AIM-7M on Jan 19, 1991.
  • 0124 MSN 0981/C366. (33rd FW/58th FS) flow by Col Rick Parson shot down IrAF Su-22 with AIM-7M on Feb 7, 1991, in Desert Storm.
  • 0125 MSN 0982/C367. (33rd FW, 58th FS) : (33rd TFW/58th TFS) Piloted by Capt Charles Magill, shot down 2 Iraqi AF Mig-29s in company with Capt Rhory Draeger in 85-0119 17th January 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

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