The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is a marvel of American military technology.
Developed in the late-1960s, the F-15 was faster and more maneuverable than it otherwise would have been because the United States thought the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25, its direct competition, was a far more advanced plane than it actually was. It’s been in service for almost a half-century now and is still being produced by Boeing, which absorbed McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s. It’ll be in service with the U.S. Air Force until at least the 2030s.
Remarkable though the plane may be, there are limits to what the F-15 can do. As Airforce Technology noted, the F-15 is at present “almost exclusively used for close-air support” by the Air Force. It has a ground-strike capability if need be, although that need is unusual. It’s not used in reconnaissance roles.
And, unless you’re a brutal Mugabe-esque dictator who crushes any kind of dissent with remorseless carnage, it has no role in crowd control.
This isn’t something you would think any branch of our military would need to hear, but it’s something the California National Guard apparently needed to be explained to them. According to a Friday report in the Los Angeles Times, the Guard had an F-15C from their 144th Fighter Wing in Sacramento ready to go on several occasions last year, starting in March and reaching at least through the election.
The jet was first readied as the Guard readied to prepare for the exigencies caused by COVID-19.
“The members expected directives to ready ground troops to help state and local authorities respond to disturbances triggered by resistance to stay-at-home rules or panic over empty store shelves,” the L.A. Times’ Paul Pringle and Alene Tchekmedyian wrote.
“But then came an unusual order: The air branch of the Guard was told to place an F-15C fighter jet on an alert status for a possible domestic mission, according to four Guard sources with direct knowledge of the matter.”
The reason? It was unlikely someone would be so determined to get toilet paper they would use a MiG-25 to fend off Mr. Whipple and score some Charmin. There was no reason to fly an air superiority fighter — unless, of course, it wasn’t about air superiority but about showing protesters you meant business.
Sources in the Guard said that “given the aircraft’s limitations, they understood [the orders] to mean the plane could be deployed to terrify and disperse protesters by flying low over them at window-rattling speeds, with its afterburners streaming columns of flames.”
“It would have been a completely illegal order that disgraced the military,” one of the Times’ sources said. “It could look like we’re threatening civilians.”
Yeah, it “could look” that way because that’d be precisely what you’d be doing.
“That’s something that would happen in the Soviet Union,” another source said. “Our military is used to combat foreign aggressors.”
“It’s a war machine, not something you use for [suppressing] civil unrest,” yet another source said, calling its use to scare potential protesters “definitely unprecedented.”
After the first communication in March of 2020, the question was apparently posed as to whether or not the F-15 was being used as part of a “show of force.”
During the second communication in July, after the George Floyd protests, the F-15 was said to be on the table in order to survey potential infrastructure damage, but would also be available for a “show of presences.”
Another internal document said the plane needed to be ready the Monday following the election and “ready to take off within two hours” to fight election-related unrest.
The message said that “aircraft availability” for a mission would be “at a premium next week with the election. We may need to work on Saturday and maybe Sunday to ensure we have … aircraft availability.”
Planes would also need to be “ready to take off within two hours.”
Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, head of the California National Guard, didn’t respond. His spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, denied any F-15s were being used as a response to internal disturbances.
“We do not use our planes to frighten or intimidate civilians,” Shiroma said.
While other planes were “postured to support any potential civil unrest missions” — a C-130J and an HC-130J, both versions of the Hercules aircraft — no F-15s were allegedly positioned to respond to threats. That’s not borne out by the messages reviewed by the L.A. Times, however.
Using a warcraft on a domestic mission is next-level bad, particularly since there’s almost no reason for it other than frightening protesters into compliance. Thanks to the National Guard, we now have something both the left and the right can agree on: This was both unnecessary and infuriating.
The F-15 can do many things, but controlling the behavior of Americans shouldn’t be one of them.
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