The F-15C/E has formed the backbone of US and Coalition operations in the Middle East for over a decade, patrolling the skies over northern and southern Iraq as part of Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch. F-15Cs policed the skies for Iraqi aircraft operating in contravention of no-fly zone agreements, whilst the F-15E was constantly dropping weapons onto the Iraqi SAM and AAA emplacements that engaged Coalition aircraft undertaking this mission. The USAF’s use of the F-15 in the region culminated with Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was launched in mid March 2003 in order to liberate the people of Iraq and ensure the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. In doing so, the F-15C was used to protect friendly troops and aircraft from any last-ditch attempt to use the Iraqi Air Force. In the event, the F-15Es of the 4th Fighter Wing saw most prolific use, engaging Iraqi armour before Coalition ground troops moved forward, and providing close air support to soldiers and Special Forces as they came into contact with the enemy.