173rd Fighter Wing maintainers help replenish supply of spare parts, keep fleet aloft

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For units who fly the F-15 Eagle the end of an era is close at hand.

After amassing an undefeated record in combat since its first U.S. Air Force sortie 46 years ago the all-weather tactical fighter McDonnell Douglas built is approaching its inevitable retirement.

At Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the Eagle still soars but some launches are for the last time as airframes head to “The Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Force Base. In many cases the airframes remain airworthy but require extensive inspections done off-site to certify continued airworthiness—and those inspections are coming to a close as well.

For the 173rd Fighter Wing continuing to fly this environment has its challenges, among them is a growing need for spare parts.

“The availability of parts in general has been limited over the last few years,” said Master Sgt. Kaylee Gibson, who manages the Mission Impaired Capability Awaiting Parts program. She went on to say that wait times for parts can stretch to nine months in certain cases.

One answer to the low supply of spare parts presented itself to Kingsley Airmen with a service-wide request for maintainers to travel to Robins Air Force Base. Ga., and remove useful parts from condemned aircraft.

Master Sgt. Brad Hammack and seven others made that trip in early June and spent two weeks removing a total of 587 parts and returning them to the supply system.

“Just a few weeks after Brad Hammack headed the Kingsley Field-led effort to replenish the F-15 supply system—pulling parts from condemned jets in Georgia—we witnessed huge results here at home,” said Maj. Richard Schuster, the 173rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “Our Mission Impaired Capability Awaiting Parts list was at better levels than we have seen in the better part of a decade.”

The value of those parts exceeded 12-million dollars but represents a higher value to the flying mission here and elsewhere, said Hammack.

“Knowing that I’m helping the whole F-15 fleet is rewarding,” he said. “We have seen some of these parts come through our shop—this is a sure-fire way to help jets get back into the air.”

The early summer trip was one of two, and a previous trip in early 2022 brought the total reclaimed parts values to more than 20-million dollars.