F-15C Eagle fleet prepares to stand down after 50 years of vigilance

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

For 24 years the F-15 Eagle has roared over the city of Klamath Falls, flying countless training missions and supplying air superiority pilots to the U.S. Air Force. 

This aircraft is special with an outstanding combat record and a service life dating back 50 years — a remarkable lifespan for a fighter aircraft. 

Those days are nearing their end as the retirement of the aircraft is fast approaching..

So, where will they go? 

It turns out, several locations — the sunny Arizona desert, Israel, NASA, and some are going on to fame and notoriety of sort. 

Sept. 11, 2016 saw eight Kingsley Field F-15s transferred directly to the Israeli Air Force where they are still flying today — the first active ramp-to-ramp transfer of aircraft

“Several of our jets were scheduled for retirement and they were going to be taken to the Boneyard; one of the options that came up was FMS [Foreign Military Sales],” said Lt. Col. Matthew Thomas, detachment commander during the transfer of aircraft. 

Another aircraft was transferred to NASA where it will be a part of their chase plane program helping capture research data for their airborne platforms. 

“We transferred aircraft 78-0515 this last July,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jay Bosse, a maintenance management production scheduler. 

Some Kingsley Field aircraft go on to become a “rock stars”— figuratively speaking — as they will transfer to the National Museum of the United States Air Force and subsequently be loaned to a community for public display. Once a city or town expresses an interest and are approved, they go on a waiting list to receive a piece of Air Force history. With the retirement of the Eagle fleet that list is shrinking rapidly as the museum transfers jets to communities around the country.

Kingsley Field has three of these jets; an A-model F-15 that flew here, which was transferred to the museum upon its retirement and put on loan to the base for the static display. Additionally, there is an F-4 Phantom II and an F-16 Fighting Falcon on display, both of which flew over the base and region in their days of active service. 

The National Museum of the United States Air Force has also approved one Kingsley Field F-15 to transfer to the local community for public display. 

The remaining jets are retiring to Arizona. Commonly known as “the Boneyard,” the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, takes jets and mothballs them in the southwest desert.

Like legions of retirement age, Americans enjoy the low humidity and lack of snow or rain for their later years. It’s an environment that helps preserve the aircraft in the event they should be called back to service.

This year the 173rd Fighter Wing has seen the retirement of 11 aircraft and will continue to see aircraft move on to their golden years for another year or so.