11/13/07 — Strike Eagles will fly by Wednesday

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Strike Eagles will fly by Wednesday

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 13, 2007 2:06 PM

A familiar sound will likely be back in Wayne County skies Wednesday.

More than a week after Air Force officials grounded all non-critical F-15 flights, 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Steve Kwast said the E models housed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base are safe and ready to fly.

"After a very short maintenance spin up period, the 4th Fighter Wing F-15Es will again be bringing the 'sound of freedom' to the skies over the greater Goldsboro community," Kwast said this morning. "The community can take pride in the fact that they have a unique and capable airframe providing air power on time, on target for America."

Officials grounded the Air Force's fleet of more than 700 F-15s, including 96 listed as Seymour Johnson assets, after a Nov. 2 crash of a Missouri National Guard F-15C.

The single-seat jet had been engaged in one-on-one training fights when the incident occurred and preliminary investigation pointed to structural failure as the cause.

The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft and sustained only minor injuries.

But Kwast said despite precautions taken, the integrity of the F-15E Strike Eagle was never really in question.

"The F-15Es employed by the airmen of Seymour Johnson are designed and built to a different standard than the rest of the Air Force's F-15 fleet due to their air-to-ground mission," he said. "It is this stronger airframe built to endure more stringent requirements that has led the F-15E to be released from its grounded status prior to the other F-15 models in the Air Force inventory."

4th Fighter Wing maintenance crews are "busy at work" today checking all aircraft for safety, he added, and are expected to give their OK by early Wednesday morning.

"We are expecting to have the first 4th Fighter Wing jet airborne no later than tomorrow," Kwast said.

The F-15E is a dual-role fighter with two crew members -- a pilot and a weapon systems officer -- performing air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives it the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night, and in all weather.