Wrenches Turn and Combat Sorties are generated by the hands of the 104th Fighter Wing Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 104th Fighter Wing
More than 500 Airmen of the 104th Fighter Wing's operations, aircraft maintenance, and logistics units brought their skills to the flight line at Barnes Air National Guard Base to dominate air power as they took part in Eagle Claw.

"Barnestormers continue to strive to be the most respected and sought-after Air Superiority team in the Air Force," said Col. Alexander Haldopoulos, 104th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group Commander. "To that end, our added focus on hot-pit refueling, ground defensive counter air (GDCA) alert training, external fuel tank build-up and our crash-damaged or disabled aircraft recovery (CDDAR) program will serve to provide combatant commanders with enhanced lethality and combat flexibility in executing air tasking order (ATO) operations anywhere in the world."

Eagle Claw is a multi-day 24-hour exercise to test the Wing's war time operational tasking skills. The exercise scenario involved protecting the northeast against enemy air and naval threats for 56 hours, providing 53 F-15 combat air patrol sorties in support of operations over western Massachusetts and the Atlantic Coast.

"This exercise was meant to refocus our maintenance team on Air Force skills training (AFSC) and test our ability to conduct complex combat operations over multiple, consecutive 12-hour shifts," said Haldopoulos.

The exercise included additional alert forces on the ground able to scramble four times during all hours of the day and night, adding 8 additional sorties to the count, and ensuring the 104th FW was able to maintain air superiority for their corner of the United States without incident.

"The unit was doing all this, while being inspected by more than 40 inspectors, 23 of which came here from other units," said Lt. Col. Peter Carr, 104th Fighter Wing Inspector General.

Combat readiness exercises are designed to help Airmen maintain warfighting skills. The 104th Fighter Wing's primary mission is supporting North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in training to Continental United States air sovereignty and asymmetric air threats. As well as training to support the forward deployed missions of offensive counter air and defensive counter air, air superiority missions.

"Under the relatively new Air Force Inspection System (AFIS), it was my job as the Wing Inspector General (IG), to inspect all aspects of our wing's preparation and execution of this exercise while conducting an independent inspection," said Carr. "Our goal in the IG office is to help the wing continuously improve so there is an ever-shrinking difference--both real and perceived--between mission readiness and inspection readiness."

The wing was graded as 'highly effective' regarding the unit's ability to generate combat ready aircraft and meet the operational mission taskings.

"The inspection team, like most Air Force inspections, highlighted some areas for improvement, and that is why we inspect," said Carr. "Overall the 104th FW executed 53 of 56 lines scheduled, with an additional 8 lines for no-notice scrambles, for a total of 61 sorties over 95 fly hours."

The Wing showcased a hot refueling capability allowing for faster refueling in a home station alert scenario or a forward deployed combat environment, by shutting down one of the two engines, refueling and quickly starting the engine back up in order to take off again.

"This program has been up for just two months and the efficiency in which they were operating made it look like they had been operating this kind of aircraft turn for years," said Carr.

"The wing inspection team identified 54 strengths, 53 recommended improvement areas, and about 100 observations that still need to be reviewed and discussed before possibly becoming validated deficiencies," Carr explained. "Overall, I couldn't be happier about the wing's combat readiness and openness to want to continue to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the operation."