DUKE FIELD, Fla. --
Aircrews from the Air Force Reserve's 711th Special Operations Squadron departed the Duke Field flightline Dec. 15, 2022, in four C-145A Combat Coyote aircraft for the last time after 10 years of service to Air Force Special Operations Command.
When the aircraft returned, aviators, loadmasters, and ground crew alike all gathered to respectfully mark the end of an era.
The Combat Coyote's landed in sequence and proceeded in tight formation down the taxiiway as if to offer one final show for the small group of awaiting spectators.
“There weren’t many other aircraft in the Air Force like this one,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Bobby Barton, former senior enlisted leader of the 919th Special Operations Group. “These guys loved this airplane, it really stood out from the crowd.”
The 919th Special Operations Wing began utilizing the Combat Coyote in 2012. Combat Aviation Advisors from the 711th SOS used the aircraft to maintain proficiency prior to instructing partner nation aircrew on a wide range of advanced aviation tactics. Instructors from the 5th Special Operations Squadron Detachment 1 at Duke Field trained U.S. Air Force pilots on the aircraft for Air Force Special Operations Command.
Although it was not used for overseas deployments in recent years, the Combat Coyote's provided a tactical mobility advantage to missions downrange when they were initially purchased by the command. They could make short landings and takeoffs, ideal for rural, undeveloped airfields and cargo delivery to forward operating bases.
“Today's flight was a little bitter sweet,” said Maj. Kristoffer Williams, 711th SOS chief of safety. “It’s been a great aircraft to fly, the Wolfhound was good to us while it lasted.”
The 919th SOW was the last wing operating the airframe, officially retiring it from the U.S. Air Force. Citizen Air Commandos and their families gathered on the flightline to watch the planes land and congratulate pilots on the final flight.
“We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this airframe,” said Williams. “We learned to appreciate it, but it’s time to move on to the next aircraft.”
The wing has a historical precedent of adapting to the needs of the Air Force. The 919th SOW previously retired the beloved AC-130H Spectre and the MC-130E Combat Talon I. As it has in years past, the wing is prepared to transform to meet the future needs of Air Force Special Operations Command.
“The only constant in the Air Force is change,” said Barton. “The people that flew the C-145 enjoyed it. It was a nice aircraft to have for a while, but I’m looking forward to the next one.”