An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Wing History: Coronet Nighthawk

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. (ret.) Terrence Popravak, jr.
  • 142nd Wing/Historian's Office

Coronet Nighthawk was the name of the Air Combat Command mission that transitioned from the active duty component to the Air National Guard in 1990.  It was a counterdrug operation which employed fighter aircraft to patrol the skies of Panama to detect aircraft suspected of being involved in illegal drug trafficking. 

When the mission began in the early 1990s, 75 percent of the drugs were transported by air.  When the mission finished in early 1999 due to the implementation of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977, that percentage was reduced to 25 percent.  This was not necessarily an easy tax, as the drug traffickers changed their tactics in response to the air patrols.  ANG fighters countered this with changes in tactics of their own that over time significantly hampered the illicit activity.

Review of local historical records shows that the 142nd deployed personnel and aircraft six times to Panama for Coronet Nighthawk, first in 1992, twice in 1993, again in 1994, over New Year 1995-1996 and lastly in 1999 shortly before the end of the Panama mission.  A typical deployment involved five F-15 Eagle fighter jets and around 50 Airmen, with personnel rotating for a new crew at a two-week point.

The first decade after the end of the Cold War was a busy one for the 142nd Fighter Wing, with multiple deployments to Iceland, as well as to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, with many other deployments of personnel and aerospace capabilities across the United States and overseas in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Southwest Asia. 

That experience paid great dividends in the team’s mission accomplishment, individual service and professional development.  Maj. Silver eventually rose in rank to Brigadier General and served 33 years before he retired in 2018 as the Air Component Commander for the Oregon National Guard.  And Lt. Pirak still serves, now Major General Pirak, as Deputy Director of the Air National Guard in a career of more than 32 years and counting.