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Strike Eagles Flee from Hurricane Irene

 

Approximately 60 F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, were some of the many military aircraft being evacuated as Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast of the USA.

As Hurricane Irene approached, the 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, began evacuating approximately 60 F-15E Strike Eagles and eight KC-135R Stratotankers to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, on August 25.

“Officially, this is a hurricane evacuation,” said Lt Col David Moeller, 335th Fighter Squadron commander. “The intent is to take the F-15Es and KC-135Rs and get them out of harm’s way. Each [F-15E] jet costs approximately $54 million; there is over $5 billion worth of assets here at Seymour Johnson so this is an attempt to mitigate the risk.”

In addition to the nearly 70 aircraft sent to Barksdale, the base also sent approximately 350 aircrew and maintainers who are expected to return early the following week, Moeller said.

“Our biggest concern at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is the base personnel and aircraft resources,” said Capt. Ryan Rickert, 4th Operation Support Squadron weather flight commander. “It’s very important to get [the aircraft] out of here. There aren’t a lot of hangars here, so if the aircraft are sitting out on the air field, they are exposed to the elements. “

Based on the forecast track, Seymour Johnson AFB is expected to see wind gusts of more than 35 knots which is approximately 45 miles per hour or more and a decent amount of rain, Rickert said.

“Seymour Johnson is the largest F-15E base in the Air Force, as such it has a mission to not only train the young fighter pilots and weapons system officers but also to maintain combat capability to deploy jets to Iraq and Afghanistan,” Moeller said. “By moving these jets away from Hurricane Irene’s path we ensure they will be available for the training as well as the operational missions.”

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