While we often talk about the newest fifth-generation fighters in the US (and now others’) inventory, it can’t be forgotten that the vast majority of the operational fleet consists of so-called “legacy” fourth-generation machines.
Though having sometimes served for decades, many of these fighters are still extremely capable. The Boeing F-15C Eagle is considered by many to be the finest air superiority machine ever built.
Recently in April, the 18th Wing’s 67th Fighter Squadron, which flies active electronically scanned array radar-equipped versions of the venerable Eagle, participated in a two-week exercise in Malaysia where the unit flew with Russian-built Mikoyan MiG-29s and, for the first time, Sukhoi Su-30MKMs.
“We flew with the Sukhois in 1 vs. 1, within-visual-range missions (BFM) as well as in beyond-visual-range (BVR), large force missions,” says Brigadier General Matt Molloy, commander of the 18th Wing.
“As expected, their new aircraft performed marvelously,” Molloy adds. “They displayed great maneuverability during the BFM (basic fighter maneuvers) sorties and strong situational awareness in the BVR (beyond visual range) missions.”
For many USAF pilots, “to get to fly with the MiG-29 and Su-30 is a once in a career opportunity,” Molloy says. “The MiGs have been in the RMAF [Royal Malaysian Air Force] inventory for years and they are flown by capable, seasoned pilots. Many of them have flown against and with the USAF many times in this same exercise during the last decade.”
Normally, a line USAF fighter squadron flies mostly against similar aircraft replicating threats. It’s a somewhat rare treat to fly against such a wide variety of jets. “As an air-to-air (air superiority) squadron representing the US in this exercise, it was our pleasure to fly with and against the variety of RMAF aircraft that participated in the 2 week event,” Molloy says. “It’s always great to fly dissimilar, and a few times a year, our pilots will get to fly against Hornets.”
Molloy is effusive in his praise of the RMAF: “The professionalism, lethality and combat spirit of the Malaysians cannot be understated. I am glad we call them ‘friends and partners.’”
In the future, Molloy says that he hopes that USAF units and Su-30s can operate out of the same airfield. “In doing so, I think we could build a very special relationship with the Sukhoi squadron and expand our tactical knowledge base,” he says.
One of the 18th Wing’s goals as part of the overall US security objective in the Pacific is building strong relationships with regional air forces.
Here is video of the 67th Fighter Squadron from earlier…