July 27, marked the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the F-15 Eagle.
The first F-15A flight was made in July 1972 here at Edwards Air Force Base, and the first flight of the two-seat F-15B (formerly TF-15A) trainer was made in July 1973. The first Eagle (F-15B) was delivered in November 1974. The jet reached operational capability September the next year. In January 1976, the first Eagle destined for a combat squadron was delivered.
Originally designed as an air-to-air fighter, the F-15 has evolved to become the one of the most capable, versatile and affordable multirole aircraft available anywhere in the world. It is the backbone of the U.S. Air Force and is in service with Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Korea and Singapore.
The F-15 has long been considered one of the most successful fighters ever built, with, according to program officials, 104 aerial combat victories and no losses. Its unparalleled range, speed, persistence and weapons load make it the fighter of choice for some of the world’s most powerful air forces.
More than 1,600 F-15s have been built.
This aircraft was trucked out to Edwards AFB from St. Louis sometime in early 1972 where Boeing (then McDonnell Aircraft) finished some manufacturing and then performed systems checkout prior to its maiden voyage.
The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory beginning in 1979. These new models have Production Eagle Package (PEP 2000) improvements, including 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of additional internal fuel, provision for carrying exterior conformal fuel tanks and increased maximum takeoff weight of up to 68,000 pounds (30,600 kilograms).
The F-15 Multistage Improvement Program was initiated in February 1983, with the first production MSIP F-15C produced in 1985. Improvements included an upgraded central computer; a Programmable Armament Control Set, allowing for advanced versions of the AIM-7, AIM-9, and AIM-120A missiles; and an expanded Tactical Electronic Warfare System that provides improvements to the ALR-56C radar warning receiver and ALQ-135 countermeasure set. The final 43 included a Hughes APG-70 radar.
F-15C, D and E models were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm where they proved their superior combat capability. F-15C fighters accounted for 34 of the 37 Air Force air-to-air victories. F-15E’s were operated mainly at night, hunting SCUD missile launchers and artillery sites using the LANTIRN system.
They have since been deployed for air expeditionary force deployments and operations Southern Watch (no-fly zone in Southern Iraq), Provide Comfort in Turkey, Allied Force in Bosnia, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
Primary function: Tactical fighter
Contractor: McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Power plant: Two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-100, 220 or 229 turbofan engines with afterburners
Thrust: (C/D models) 23,450 pounds each engine
Wingspan: 42.8 feet (13 meters)
Length: 63.8 feet (19.44 meters)
Height: 18.5 feet (5.6 meters)
Weight: 31,700 pounds
Maximum takeoff weight: (C/D models) 68,000 pounds (30,844 kilograms)
Fuel Capacity: 36,200 pounds (three external plus conformal fuel tanks)
Payload: depends on mission
Speed: 1,875 mph (Mach 2 class)
Ceiling: 65,000 feet (19,812 meters)
Range: 3,450 miles (3,000 nautical miles) ferry range with conformal fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks
Crew: F-15A/C: one. F-15B/D/E: two
Armament: One internally mounted M-61A1 20mm 20-mm, six-barrel cannon with 940 rounds of ammunition; four AIM-9 Sidewinder and four AIM-120 AMRAAMs or eight AIM-120 AMRAAMs, carried externally.
Unit Cost: A/B models – $27.9 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars);C/D models – $29.9 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Initial operating capability: September 1975
Inventory: Total force, 249
Editor’s note: Chris Haight, 461st Flight Test Squadron (Joint Strike Fighter), contributed to this article.