In March of last year, California National Guard members awaited orders from Sacramento headquarters to make preparations for any civil unrest that might arise from the outbreak of the coronavirus.
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.
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.
Those sources said the order didn’t spell out the mission but, given the aircraft’s limitations, they understood it 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. Fighter jets have been used occasionally in that manner in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said.
Deploying an F-15C, an air-to-air combat jet based at the Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, to frighten demonstrators in this country would have been an inappropriate use of the military against U.S. civilians, the sources said.