Newer, Faster, Sleeker: F-15's Make Debut In Fresno

The first of the new F-15 Eagle fighter jets arrived Tuesday afternoon at the Fresno-based California National Guard's 144th fighter wing.

The F15's will replace the wing's current F-16 fighters, each costing about $30 million. Eighteen to 21 F-15s are expected to arrive in Fresno by October.

Each of the new fighter jets{} pack two engines and has a much more powerful radar than the F-16 model, which have been housed in Fresno for 25 years.

"We're ecstatic we're very grateful to have had the opportunity to have flown both aircraft. They are two of the greatest plane our country has built. For us to get this in Fresno is a tremendous privilege," said Lt. Col. Rob Swertfager who brought his kids to check out his new toy, which some had wondered if it would ever arrive.

A ceremony signaling the arrival of the fighter jets was held at 11 a.m. with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and more than 100 other people in attendance.

"What you see here is the right equipment at the right place, with the right people in the United States," said Col. Clay Garrison.

Mayor Swearengin lauded the arrival of the fighter jets and the resources taken by state and local official to bring the jets, saying that it would provide significant economic benefits to the city.

"The 144th Fighter Wing has been an important part of the Fresno community for more than 50 years, and these new jets will solidify its long-term presence in our region," she said.{}

"When the 144th faced federal budget cuts last year, our congressional delegation, Gov. Brown's office and the California National Guard worked quickly to make a compelling case about the importance of keeping the 144th operating in Fresno," she said.