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PSAB F-15E Strike Eagles lead first U.S. participation in Kuwait Aviation Show

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

On Jan. 17, 1991, an F-15E Strike Eagle led one of the first missioned aimed at repelling Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from the country of Kuwait. This bedrock event in what marked the beginning of Operation Desert Storm is well known by many historians as a definitive demonstration of the air capability and superiority of the U.S. Air Force.

Flash-forward 29 years, the F-15E Strike Eagles are still one of the most capable dual-role aircraft in the world and, although under different circumstances, are still demonstrating combat airpower in the region – this time by participating in one of the most recognizable airshows in the Middle East.

Aircrew members assigned to the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, conducted flyovers at the Kuwait Aviation Show in Farwaniya, Kuwait, Jan. 15-18, 2020.

The three-day event consisted of aerial demonstrations by aircraft from countries around the world, static displays, and tours for airshow visitors.

“The main goal is working with our coalition partners and hopefully making us more interoperable,” said Capt. Jessica Niswonger, 494th EFS weapons systems officer. “Whether it’s flying at an airshow, training or conducting actual combat missions, we just hope that it brings everybody together to make us a more capable coalition force.”

This year marks the first time the U.S. has participated in the Kuwait Aviation Show. Participation in this event demonstrates the U.S.’s commitment to regional security, highlights the flexibility of American airpower, and strengthens military-to-military relationships with region partners.

“I am definitely grateful to be one of the aircrew members participating in this event,” Niswonger said. “Events like this build upon our strong relationship with Kuwait and enhance our standing in the international community. It also helps demonstrate how we employ these aircraft to defend the region from those who would threaten its security. I am honored to be part of it.”

Although the circumstances of the flight in Kuwait are different now, the participating aircrew were keenly aware of the significance of their participation in the event, especially on the anniversary of the first flights in Operation Desert Storm.

“As fighter pilots, we are driven by our heritage,” Niswonger said. “Being able to represent this generation of F-15E aircrew members as we acknowledge our past aviators’ contribution to our history in the region is always special.”

“It also showcases how resilient the aircraft and those that maintain and operate it really are,” added Capt. Andrew Munoz, 494th EFS pilot. “It’s the countless hours of support from the men and women in our Air Force that keep this aircraft viable and a major asset to the security needs of the region.”

Other U.S. military aircraft to participate in the airshow include the U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, the U.S. Navy F/A-18 Growler, and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey. During their portion of the show, each aircraft conducted several passes, demonstrating their capability and tactical maneuvers to the more than 75,000 people in attendance.

Munoz expressed his excitement about being able to showcase the aircraft to onlookers who may have never attended an airshow previously or those in the region who have never seen an American aircraft.

“We have been welcomed to this part of the world but there are people in the region who have never seen one of our aircraft or know our capabilities,” he said. “This is an opportunity to let them see what the U.S. Air Force is really capable of first-hand and maybe even inspire a new generation of aviators.”

He also related the experience to his own personal story as a child attending his first airshow with his family.

“I remember being 10 years old and attending my first airshow with my father,” he said. “I remember seeing the aircraft fly by and thinking someday that could be me. Hopefully, our presence in this show lit that fire in them the same way it did for me, so long ago.”

The U.S. presence at the Kuwait Aviation Show underscores commitment to the security and stability of the people and state of Kuwait, as a valued diplomatic, economic, cultural and military partner since that Operation Desert Storm mission 29 years ago.