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NEWS | June 26, 2024

F-15 EX Eagle II Makes Debut Landing at Portland Base

By Senior Airman Yuki Klein, 142nd Wing

PORTLAND, Ore. - Don’t mess this up. Those words raced through 142nd Wing fighter pilot Maj. Calvin Conner’s head as he landed the first F-15EX Eagle II at Portland Air National Guard base June 5.

The day was significant for Conner, the entire base and Portland’s neighboring community. The arrival of the novel aircraft was a landmark event, and Conner was at the center of it all.

Conner, known as “Knife” among his peers, is a fighter pilot with more than a decade of experience. He has accumulated over 1,500 hours in the F-15E Strike Eagle, 100 in the F-15C Eagle, and 100 in the EX.

Before joining the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Wing, Conner flew the EX while serving under the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

On the morning of the EXs debut flight into Portland, Conner was accompanied by fellow 142nd Wing fighter pilot Maj. Brandon Wigton, who sat in the back seat of the EX.

As the duo prepared to take off from Boeing’s airfield on June 5 en route to Portland, Conner felt a mix of excitement and apprehension.

The 142nd Wing is the first operational unit to receive the EX — all the more notable because the 142nd Wing belongs to the Air National Guard, as opposed to the Active Duty Air Force, which traditionally would be the first to field a new aircraft.

“I think we got selected because we have the best Airmen [of] anywhere in the world,” said Col. Michael Kosderka, 142nd Wing commander. “The 142nd is leading the charge in all things that we do, and the Air Force knows that this airplane will be maintained by the best maintainers, it’ll be fueled by the best fuelers, and flown by the best pilots. We’ll be able to do the job better than anybody, and they know it.”

The 142nd Wing is one of three Air National Guard units set to operate the EX. The others are the 144th Fighter Wing, Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, and the 159th Fighter Wing, New Orleans Air National Guard base, Louisiana.

The F-15EX, gleaming in the mid-morning light, was ready. Conner strapped in, ran through preflight checks, and the roar of the twin engines filled the air.

The flight to Portland was smooth. The EX handled beautifully, a testament to its advanced design and capabilities.

“EX 008 performed exactly as expected,” said Conner. “As far as the aircraft performance goes, it is fast. Very fast.”

With the EX’s advanced radar, new self-defense suite, bigger motors, and fly-by-wire controls, this aircraft is a formidable addition to the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal.

“The F-15EX is a game-changer,” said Conner. “It enhances our lethality and survivability while expanding our mission capabilities.”

As Conner approached Portland Air National Guard Base, he couldn’t help but notice how clear the day was and how beautiful Mount Hood looked in the distance. At approximately 12:30 pm, Conner landed the EX at its new home, where a crowd of excited spectators greeted Conner and Wigton with cheers and applause.

“It felt surreal,” said Conner. “I’m just glad I could be a part of it.”

The 142nd Wing will ultimately receive an entire fleet of EXs over the next year or two, replacing the unit’s C-model F-15s. The next EX is due to arrive in July.



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