JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR – HICKAM, Hawaii: Pilots from the 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard, completed their last training mission with the F-15 Eagle from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii Aug 25.
The HIANG is upgrading to the F-22 Raptor, a fifth generation fighter, and received their first two Raptors in July.
The ANG is the lead in a total force concept that already exists at JB Hickam with the C-17 Globemaster III. The 199th FS will fly and help maintain the 20 F-22 Raptors that bring another capability to the HIANG.
Many of the current F-15 pilots of the HIANG are eager to start training and flying the Raptor, but will still sorely miss the Eagle aircraft, which the unit has flown since 1987, said Lt. Col. James Sage, a pilot with the 199th FS.
“It’s like saying goodbye to a good friend,” said Colonel Sage said. “It was exciting flying it for the last time, and especially against a F-22, but at the same time the F-15 has always brought me home safely and been an outstanding aircraft.”
The three remaining F-15s will depart JB Hickam Sept. 1, and with that, two of the fighters will move onto the 56th Aggressors Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., while the other will move onto the 120th Fighter Wing of the Montana Air National Guard. The Montana unit has assumed the HIANG’s air-defense mission for the next year as the HIANG transitions to the F-22 said 199th pilot Lt. Col. Mark Ladtkow.
“It’s somewhat a bittersweet feeling flying the last training mission of the F-15 with our unit,” Colonel Ladtkow said. “I’m blessed to have the upcoming opportunity to fly the F-22, but the F-15, which I’ve flown for 17 years, is a friend of mine and will be missed.”
Colonel Ladtkow is a 20-year veteran of the military, with the last six being part of the ANG. He is slated to deliver his jet to the Montana ANG in September.
“The 199th (FS) proves that National Guard forces are capable of maintaining a strategic presence with its active-duty association and providing a great value to our nation and the state of Hawaii,” said Gen. Craig R. McKinley the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
The F-22, a single-seat, twin-engine aircraft, which utilizes stealth technology, was originally designed as an air-superiority fighter.
“These F-22 Raptors are the state-of-the-art, air-superiority fighters, and couldn’t be located at a better place,” said General McKinley.