Montana Air National Guard F-15s will continue protecting Hawaiian skies, extending their mission at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, through next September, reports the Great Falls Tribune. Six F-15s of the 120th Fighter Wing in Great Falls deployed to Hickam last August, to cover the Hawaii ANG’s quick-reaction alert mission as Hickam’s 199th Fighter Squadron transitioned to the F-22 Raptor. Upon returning to Montana, the 120th FW’s Eagles are slated for transfer to the California ANG’s 144th FW at Fresno. However, the National Guard Bureau is postponing the F-15’s transfer by an additional eight months, reported the Tribune. Instead of returning only briefly to their home base at Great Falls International Airport, the 120th FW’s two permanently deployed and 10 rotating pilots, as well as some 35 maintainers will remain in Hawaii until the Montana unit shifts to new roles operating the C-27J and interpreting geospatial intelligence.
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.