Since the 1980s, the United States of America has been crowned with air superiority by using the F-15E Strike Eagle’s dual-role fighter capabilities in air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
Preparing for those scenarios that happen down-range requires cooperation from both pilots and joint terminal attack controllers to get the job done.
Green Flag West provides essential close air support training that combines the capabilities of the Air Force and Army as a multi-domain fighting force.
“We’re here supporting the Army, and their big exercise out of Fort Irwin,” said Capt. Kyle Fitle, 391st Fighter Squadron pilot from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. “We are here to provide close air support by training with and helping them integrate airpower into their large-force exercise.”
F-15E pilots learned how to aid Army ground forces by providing CAS to clear the area of “enemy targets,” over Fort Irwin, California, as part of Rotation 18-08, National Training Center.
“When we try to integrate with the Army, especially in these large-force type exercises, the biggest challenge is learning to effectively integrate the two forces and learning to speak the same language,” Fitle said.
Unique to the F-15E Strike Eagle, these pilots don’t work alone. A weapons systems officer helps guide munitions from the back seat, by communicating with JTACs on the ground and other F-15Es in the sky.
“The Strike Eagle is the only dual-seater fighter we have in the Air Force, and CAS is where I feel my job is most valued,” said Capt. Alex Deerr, 391st WSO. “A lot of times, it can be the pilot taking the lead when we’re doing Air-to-Air, but when we’re doing Air-to-Ground I feel like I have a really strong impact by talking to the guys on the ground and making sure their mission happens as well as our own.”
Deerr described that every scenario is different, and Green Flag is an opportunity to figure out how to solve each problem through trial and error in a learning environment.
“Not a lot of us have deployed yet and have done this in real combat,” said Deerr. “This is how we can closely simulate what we do down range. We are all here to learn, and the learning that happens on both ends each day is incredible.”
Both Fitle and Deerr said they hoped to gain experience from Green Flag that will help them while deployed.
“I want to learn how to integrate with the Army and know how these guys work,” Fitle said. “I also want to become better at CAS by learning from the flight leads we have here. I want to become more proficient at it, so when it comes time to do it in a real-world scenario, I will feel confident going out there doing the job.”