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Maj. Craig Vincent walks with a group of South Korean pilots he trained in South Korea. Vincent spent nine months here instructing the South Korean Air Force on their recently acquired F-15K.
Maj. Craig Vincent walks with a group of South Korean pilots he trained in South Korea. Vincent spent nine months here instructing the South Korean Air Force on their recently acquired F-15K. (Courtesy of the South Korean Air Force)
Maj. Craig Vincent walks with a group of South Korean pilots he trained in South Korea. Vincent spent nine months here instructing the South Korean Air Force on their recently acquired F-15K.
Maj. Craig Vincent walks with a group of South Korean pilots he trained in South Korea. Vincent spent nine months here instructing the South Korean Air Force on their recently acquired F-15K. (Courtesy of the South Korean Air Force)
Before returning to the States, Maj. Craig Vincent is thrown into the air by some of the South Korean pilots who he instructed. The nine-month training program, centering around the F-15K, concluded last week.
Before returning to the States, Maj. Craig Vincent is thrown into the air by some of the South Korean pilots who he instructed. The nine-month training program, centering around the F-15K, concluded last week. (Courtesy of the South Korean Air Force)

When Maj. Craig Vincent returns to the United States, he will be one of only two American pilots who have flown Boeing’s newest fighter jet: The F-15K, also the newest jet in South Korea’s hangars.

Vincent arrived in South Korea in December to train Republic of Korea Air Force pilots to fly the fighters and train their instructors to teach pilots in the future.

“We basically had to create a squadron,” he said during a phone interview last week.

South Korean pilots have been flying the F-15K, which is similar to the F-15E model flown by American pilots, for about 18 months. Their other aircraft include F-5s, F-4s and F-16s.

Vincent is the second American F-15 instructor sent to South Korea as an extended training service specialist — someone who is lent to a foreign country for a set period.

During his nine months in South Korea, he directly or indirectly trained 40 to 45 pilots. He said the F-15K was a “huge upgrade in capability” for South Korea because of its versatility.

“In the big scheme of things, it is one aircraft that can perform every mission,” he said.

“It bridged a gap between the USAF and the ROKAF, and not just in their capabilities in what they can do to help in assisting the defense of their country,” he said. “They can now communicate on common ground with U.S. forces. It’s really going to be a huge improvement for joint operations in Korea.”

The United States has flown F-15s since the late 1980s, he said.

Vincent returned late last week to the United States, where he will be stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. He logged more than 205 hours in the F-15K, “which is pretty aggressive for about nine months of flying,” he said.

The biggest difference between the F-15Es and the F-15Ks?

Engine power, Vincent said.

“It was a little bit sportier,” he said of the South Korean models.

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