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NEWS | March 15, 2024

Oregon Air Guard Pilot Conducts 142nd Wing’s First EX Flight

By Master Sgt. Steph Sawyer, 142nd Wing

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Five F-15C instructor pilots from the Oregon Air National Guard’s 123rd Fighter Squadron are training in the F-15EX with instructors from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base for two weeks.

Lt. Col. Joel Thesing, 123rd Fighter Squadron, flew the first training flight March 7.

Thesing commented on the long road the wing has traveled, laying the foundation for a successful conversion from the weathered F-15 C-model to the novel EX.

“The wing’s ability to train its first group of pilots on the EX is the direct result of all the hard work that members across the wing have done to lobby for this aircraft, to plan its bed down and sustainment, and ultimately how to employ it,” said Thesing. “It’s an honor to be a part of that effort.”

While the new EX closely resembles its C-model predecessor, beneath its exterior casing lies an entirely different, much-improved aircraft.

“My impression of the F-15EX after flying it for the first time was that it is an awesome, awesome aircraft,” said Thesing. “The engines feel like they have a lot more power than the those in the C-model, and the radar and avionics are a generational improvement over the F-15C as well.”

Some EX features will take some getting used to. For example, the EX is the first U.S. Air Force F-15 to boast fly-by-wire flight controls.

Fly-by-wire describes the digital system that replaces the manual flight controls in older F-15s. These systems weigh less and enhance maneuverability but differ significantly from what C-model pilots are used to.

While at Eglin, Thesing and his colleagues are acclimating to the EX.

“The initial work will take a lot of studying and practice to get the basics of flying the aircraft down and learning its systems, and that process has a steep learning curve and never really ends for as long as you’re a pilot,” said Thesing. “That being said, I look forward to when the focus can shift from how to fly the EX to how to employ it tactically.”

The Air National Guard intends to provide the 142nd Wing with 18 new EXs, with the first arriving this summer.



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