Twelve F-15C/D of the 131st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deploy to Europe
At the beginning of April 12 F-15C/D Eagles and approximately 350 Airmen and support equipment belonging to the 131st Fighter Squadron, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, and the 194th Fighter Squadron, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, deployed to the European theater for a 6-month tour in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The arrival of these F-15s marked the latest iteration of a Theater Security Package (TSP), a temporary deployment of CONUS (Continental US) of a force whose aim is to augment the Air Force presence in a specific region, for deterrence purposes. The TSP “will conduct training alongside NATO allies and partners as part of OAR to strengthen interoperability, demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous and to deter further Russian aggression,” according to a USAF statement.
The F-15s flew to two separate locations simultaneously: Keflavik, in Iceland, to undertake air policing duties in support of NATO, and Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands to join the lare, international exercise Frisian Flag. As done by the TSPs last year, during their six months in theater, the F-15s will also forward deploy to other NATO and partner nations to include Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania.
With exceptional skill, the F-15 pilots proved the F-15’s continued prowess as the preeminent air superiority fighter, while the highly trained support staff and expert maintainers ensured 98% aircraft availability.
“The exercise has gone incredibly well,” said Lt. Col. David Halasi-Kun, 131st EFS detachment commander. “The jets and personnel have exceeded performance expectations and our international partners have repeatedly complimented the professional and lethal performance of the 131st.”
The detachment commander had only praise for the squadron's recent accomplishments, “I could not be prouder of the men and women of the 131st.”
The Squadron, primarily composed of members of the Air National Guard, along with Airmen from Spangdahlem and Ramstein Air Bases in Germany, operates as a theater security package within Operation Atlantic Resolve to conduct training with NATO allies and partners. During Frisian Flag, the 131st EFS worked with more than eight allied nations and developed many cooperative relationships, reinforcing U.S. commitment to our allies.
“The Frisian Flag exercise is like being at an international air show that only lets in other Air Forces,” said Lt. Col. Peter Carr, 131st EFS maintenance officer in charge, “and there is a multi-national esprit de corpse in that, it’s something I have not experienced before this deployment.”
The ANG is uniquely positioned for these types of missions because so many of its members stay with the same unit for many years and partnerships and lessons learned persist in its collective memory, which can be leveraged on future deployments with our allies, said Carr. “And because we work together for 10, 20 and sometimes 30 years, it's a mature group of people that fights like a team and cares like a family.”