About 350 aircrew and maintainers from the 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing evacuated Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., Friday. About 60 F-15E Strike Eagles and eight KC-135R Stratotankers also evacuated to Barksdale AFB, La., in an effort to escape Hurricane Irene, which was slated to hit land over the weekend. “Each [F-15E] jet costs approximately $54 million; there is $5 billion worth of assets here at Seymour Johnson, so this is an attempt to mitigate the risk,” said Lt. Col. David Moeller, the 335th Fighter Squadron commander, in a release. Military bases all along the eastern sea board were bracing for the hurricane. As of Friday afternoon the hurricane remained a category three. It was expected to maintain major hurricane status, with winds of at least 115 miles per hour, as it approached the North Carolina coast Saturday morning, according to a release. Military bases all along the East Coast were bracing for the storm, with many offering voluntary evacuations or early dismissals. Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, offered to take in up to 80 military aircraft looking for shelter from the storm, reported the Springfield [Ohio] News-Sun. (See also Come On, Irene from the Daily Report archives)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.