THE F-15 ERA (1983 - 1989)
PHOTO FROM sharpshooter-military aviation journal

The 318th flagship (76-0008) leads the line of squadron aircraft at William Tell '84.


Fully equipped with F-15s, the 318th resumed the unit's alert commitments at McChord and Castle AFB on 30 December 1983. F-106's assigned from Montana's 120th FIG / 186th FIS 186th FIS and California's 144th FIW / I94th FIS stood alert at the McChord and Castle alert sites respectively during the Green Dragons conversion into the F-15.  


In May of 1984, seventeen ADTAC associated squadrons competed in a "Shootout" for six spots in the 1984 William Tell Weapons Meet. The 318th captured their invitation to William Tell by beating ADTAC's other fully equipped F-15 unit, the 48th FIS, in competitions carried out in each units home stations. In their first William Tell, in the F-15 Eagle the Green Dragons began the Meet on a good note, winning the arrival competition by passing the Tyndall AFB, FL tower .76 seconds off their predetermined time. During the competition two 318th FIS Pilots, Team Leader Capt Rich Hill & future Thunderbird Commander Capt Dan Darnell) scored direct hits on 2 QF-100D full scaled target drone aircraft, while Green Dragon Maintenance and Weapons load personnel set high marks during the competition. An unfortunate string of bad luck doomed the squadron through the latter parts of the meet, seeing the Green Dragons ending up in seventh out of the 12-team field.


In 1984, the Green Dragons were once again honored as best Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in the USAF with award of their second Hughes Trophy. The squadrons exceptional performance in its air defense mission, accomplishing their conversion into the F-15 and reestablishing their Air Defense alert mission more than a month ahead of schedule were some of the many highlights of a great year. Over the next two consecutive years, the Air Defense, Tactical Air Command selected the 318th as the organizations representative quest for the Hughes Trophy.


In the year following the Green Dragons Hughes Trophy win, 23 pilots and 80 maintenance personnel deployed to Tyndall AFB in March of 1985 to their annual Combat Archer air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program. During Combat Archer, pilots are given the chance to shoot live-fire missiles at sub-scale and full-scale drones and use their guns on low cost towed targets. Combat Archer also gives weapons assembler's loaders and maintainers opportunities to evaluate their procedures, and aircraft systems. During their two-week Combat Archer deployment, 16 missiles (AIM-7 radar & AIM-9 heat seeking) were fired by 16 different pilots 12 of whom never fired a missile from an F-15. Green Dragon pilots hit all nine towed targets during the gun profile, destroying four. A Combat Archer first was achieved, no missiles were lost to fire control malfunctions, misfires, or pilot errors the Archer F-15 Program Manager was quoted "The Green Dragon deployment was the best WSEP (Weapon System Evaluation Program) I have ever seen!"


The second leg of the deployment involved dissimilar air combat verses F-4's and F-16's on the Tyndall Air Combat Maneuvering Range. On the range, all aircraft carrying Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) systems are recorded in a three dimensions where, each mission is reviewed and securitized by the pilots and trainers. At the conclusion of the training, the 318th received their share of complements from the F-16 pilots, with the Green Dragons being called "the best F-15's they had ever faced".

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After the primary aircraft experienced a hydraulic leak causing a "ground abort", spare pilot Capt Tom Watson completed the mission with a successful AIM-7 launch during William Tell 1984.


On 2 June, five F-15s flew a 5-hour non-stop flight from McChord to Goose Bay, Labrador to participate in a weeklong NORAD exercise titled Amalgam Brave 84. In this exercise, the 318th would get the opportunity to practice low-level intercepts & tactics against simulated enemy fighters composed of A-10s, A-7s, RF-4s, German F-4s, T-33s, and CF-101s & Canadian EC-117.


In Amalgam Brave 85, the 318th was assigned to “fight” with the “Blue Team” flying with Active Air Force, Air National Guard, and Navy squadrons flying F-106s, F-4s, and F-14. Using an aptly named tactic called "Eaglewacks" where 318th F-15s would guide fighters to targets using their powerful radars, Green Dragon pilots missed only one of the 50 shots attempted. Commenting on the units success, one 318th pilot commented "That gave us quite a bit of confidence in our ability to counter any threat”  “Nobody else could come close to us”. Maintainers were hampered by the bases limited amount of support equipment or facilities. To help in the situation, three C-141s from the 62d MAW loaded with all the equipment & supplies necessary for the deployment accompanied the squadron. Even with this challenge, 318th Maintenance turned in an excellent performance, loosing no sorties to a “broken jet”.


On 6 December 1985, the Tactical Air Command reactivated the First Air Force replacing the Air Defense, Tactical Air Command. One of the four original air forces, the 1st AF has been associated with air defense since its activation in 1940.


In November of 1986, the 318th was under the scrutiny of their first Operational Readiness Inspection in the F-15. In a scenario the ORI, called an "employment phase", all squadron aircraft are continuously launched under wartime conditions. At 11am on 15 November of 1986, as one F-15 returning from such a mission, suffered a catastrophic landing gear collapse sending the plane down the McChord runway in a blaze of sparks and smoke emitting from the crumbling gear and the left external tank (which still attached to the wing). With McChord Crash Rescue personnel racing to the scene, the pilot climbed out of and removed himself from the scene uninjured. After being doused with foam, the fighter was jacked off the runway and removed. The F-15 was repaired and rejoined to the 318th flying the squadrons final sortie in 1989. The cause was traced back to a defect in the gear and process and materials used to maintain the gear.  


With an order from TAC HQ, the 318ths trademark "starburst" tailflash was replaced by the tactical tailcode "TC" (derived from McChord's  airport code KTCM/TCM) - the famed starburst would be moved to the top of the tail in-between a light blue/dark blue tailstripe.


In 1987, complying with orders from Tactical Air Command Headquarters to align all of the commands aircraft to a uniform standard, the 318th FIS began to repaint the tails of their F-15's with the tail code "TC", (derived from McChord's International Air Transport Association airport code of "TCM") which stood for Tacoma, the major city near the base. The trademark "Starburst" remained in a much smaller form, contained in the center of a dark & light blue tail band on the top of the F-15's vertical stabilizers.  


When compared the east coast, pulling alert duty on the west coast can be tedious at times for interceptor crews, that all changed on one day in the summer of 1987. Controllers from the Southwest Air Defense Sector scrambled F-15's from Det. 1, 5th FIS standing alert at Davis-Monthan to identify an unknown aircraft flying across the US southern border. A positive ID was made on the aircraft as the fighters approached, the plane, a Douglas DC-4, was flying low with its navigational lights turned off. The intercepting pilots were given instructions to shadow the aircraft and stay out of aircrafts view as it traveled up the California Coast. 


Responsibility to follow the aircraft was given to succeeding fighter interceptor located on the path of the unknown aircraft, as the klaxon sounded at McChord, two F-15's raced to meet the aircraft just before the Washington Oregon Border. Not long after the 318th pilots located the DC-4, the mission took a very strange turn, as the un-identified aircraft approached Long Beach, WA, it began a slow decent towards land falling below radar coverage, and with a very low cloud cover, out of visual range.


Controllers at the Northwest Air Defense Sector (NWADS) gave instructions to the F-15's to perform a "CAP" (or combat air patrol) over the site and report on any changes in the situation, moments later the DC-4 was in the air. With suspicions aroused, NWADS alerted the Washington State Patrol and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) of this potential drug trafficking situation. The plane was followed along the Washington Coast where it landed at a local airport in Arlington WA. Shortly after the DC-4 rolled to a stop, two men were seen leaving the aircraft and entering a car never to be seen again. 


Detachment Commander Capt Ron Dufresne races to his F-15 during a scramble at the 318ths detachment location at Castle AFB, CA.


In April of 1987, the squadron began a series of deployments at Kingsley Field, OR flying against the students assigned to the 114th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, ANG's Air Defense F-4 schoolhouse.  In May, the squadron sent six F-15’s and 3 T-33’s to one of the most important Air Defense exercises, Copper Flag at Tyndall AFB, FL. In the exercise, the squadron led all participants in kill rates in a night / Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) / communication - jamming environment. The 318th flew with F-4Cs of Oregon's 123d FIS, who both were considered as leaders in this arena.


The Green Dragons deployed to Alaska in June in a major NORAD/SAC exercise named Copper Flag, followed by the squadron’s first visit in Red Flag in the F-15. Green Dragon maintenance was stellar in the 130-degree heat on the ramps of Nellis, and their efforts paid off in making every sortie, plus a few extra.  The Squadron was busy in September with deployments to Luke AFB AZ, fighting F-16s, an Air Defense serge at Castle AFB with five F-15s fighting F-4s & F/A-18s and deploying two T-33's to a Copper Flag exercise at Tyndall. October continued with another deployment to Tyndall for a live fire exercise launching 16 air-to-air missiles. In December, the Squadron deployed to Nellis to provide adversary support.


In the beginning of 1988, the U.S. Air Force officials announced that the 318th would leave the F-15 community and transition into the General Dynamics F-16 Air Defense Fighter (an upgraded version of early model Fighting Falcon) by mid 1989. With this conversion, the squadrons F-15’s would move south to re-equip the Oregon Air National Guard's 123rd FIS / 142d FIG "Redhawks" replacing the units McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantoms.


After 40 years of dedicated service to the Air Force, a decision was made to retire all T-33s during 1988. On February 3, 1988 a five-ship formation of 318th FIS T-33A's saluted the people of McChord flying into history and retirement to the Arizona Boneyard. The T-33 was assigned longer than any aircraft at McChord, flying in the skies of Washington for over 37 years. The 318th would donate one of their T-33's s/n 58-2106 (last T-33 built for the Air Force) to the McChord Air Museum.

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With 25th Air Division Commander Brig Gen John M. Davey in the lead, five of the last T-33's assigned to the 318th FIS fly over Washington State on their way to retirement in the "Boneyard".


After flying more than 60,000 hours in three types of aircraft, the maintainers of the 318th FIS continued their heritage of excellence by being recognized with three top awards in 1988. In the fifth consecutive year, the 318th received the Air Force Flight Safety award given to the unit with the most flying hours and flight safety achievements while performing every facet of the assigned mission.


Another prestigious award, the National Safety Councils Award of Commendation, was received. This award is given to a unit that achieves a 5 % reduction in their composite ground mishap rate when compared to two fiscal years, and have a lower composite rate than the Air Force average. The squadron also received the TAC Flight Safety Award given to a unit that achieves one year command controlled Class A or Class B mishap failure rate. A class mishap is declared when damages exceed $500,000 or the loss of life or permanent disability or loss of aircraft, a class B is declared when accidents total between $100,000 & $500,000.  


In 1988, The Air Force Directorate of Maintenance and supply awarded the 318th the  Maintenance Effeteness Award, this award, given to units, not eligible for the Daedalion Award (because of size), who have demonstrated the most effective management of their maintenance facility and resources in a given year. Some of the 318th achievements that in 1988 include superior performance during an Alert Force Evaluation & Unit Effectiveness Evaluation, no reportable on the job injuries, no chargeable Foreign Object Damage (FOD) incidences for more than 4,000 hrs, excellent results on all major deployments. The squadron also achieved a maintenance scheduling effectiveness rate of 99.4 %, and had the highest mission-capable (MC) rate for the F-15A/B (at the time) of 87.8 %.


In June of 1988, the 318th traveled to Nellis AFB, NV to participate in Red Flag the Air Forces realistic combat training exercise involving air units throughout the US military and U.S. allies.  Most units participating in Red Flag make up what is known as the "Blue Force", but this deployment, the Green Dragons would take a familiar role, working with the Aggressors of the "Red Force". As part of the Red Force the 318th would fly 4 to 6 F-15's twice a day covering 150,000 square miles of air space. At the end, the USAF Aggressors commented that the 318th was the best unit they have seen in the offensive & defensive BVR (Beyond visual Range) tactics.

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