The Department of the Air Force selected Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans among the next bases to receive one of its two newest fighters, alongside a fleet of aircraft to Fresno Air National Guard Base, California, and Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts. As part of the announcement, the Louisiana Air National Guard will receive 18 F-15EX Eagle IIs to continue their mission of protecting and defending the Gulf South region of the United States, as they have for decades.
“This new investment into NAS JRB New Orleans will help revitalize and sustain a key economic asset for Plaquemines and the Region, while strengthening the security of the Gulf and our nation,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “GNO, Inc. has advocated for this outcome over many years, alongside Louisiana Economic Development, local leaders, and military partners across the state. We specifically owe a debt of gratitude to Louisiana’s federal delegation, who has remained committed to and supportive of securing new aircraft for Belle Chasse.”
These new fighters will replace an aging fleet of F-15C and F-15D jets, many of which are approaching or above 40 years in age. The Louisiana Air Guard executes on state and federal missions to provide trained, well-equipped personnel alongside the active forces during both national emergencies and/or war, and to provide assistance to our state during natural disasters and civil disturbances. The 159th Fighter Wing, who will operate the new F-15EXs, is also part of a network of Air Force units tasked with the 24/7 Aerospace Control Alert mission protecting the country’s airspace from threats.
“It’s been a challenge maintaining such aging aircraft, many of which are significantly older than the maintainers working on them” said Colonel Jonathan Mumme, 159th Fighter Wing Commander, “but I couldn’t be more proud of our Louisiana Airmen for the miraculous effort they put in daily to keep us flying. The Alert mission requires we launch jets within minutes in response to any threat from the sky, and the F-15EX will provide the right platform for that mission’s success well into the future.”
The addition of new aircraft reinforces the value of our region’s military assets and a continued commitment for critical operations to continue in Belle Chasse, as validated by Louisiana’s elected leadership, who advocated over the years for the deployment of these fighters. The 159th Fighter Wing employs over 1,400 Airmen and the unit’s operations creates $765 million in annual economic output via labor, contracts, and payments into local and state taxes.
“We are thrilled by the decision,” said Major General Keith Waddell, Adjutant General of Louisiana, “and are so thankful to Governor Edwards, our congressional delegation, our local community leaders and the entire Louisiana National Guard for their tireless efforts working toward this goal.”
The decision to host the next F-35As and the F-15EXs at their respective bases came after conducting site surveys at each location, assessing the location’s ability to facilitate the mission and infrastructure capacity, while accounting for community support, environmental factors and cost. The Department of the Air Force will conduct environmental impact analyses at each base, which are expected to be completed in spring 2024 before a final decision is made.