- The first F-15A flight was made on 27 July 1972, culminating one of the most successful aircraft development and procurement programs in Air Force history. After an accident-free test and evaluation period, the first aircraft was delivered in November 1974. In January 1976, the first Eagle destined for a combat squadron was delivered to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Three hundred and sixty-five F-15As were built before production of the F-15C began in 1978. In January 1982, the 48th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Langley Air Force Base became the first Air Force air defense squadron to transition to the F-15. After twenty years of service, the F-15A was reassigned from active duty Air Force fighter squadrons to Air National Guard units. The F-15A is flown by Air National Guard squadrons in the states of Oregon, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Massachussets.
- The first flight of the two-seat F-15B (formerly TF-15A) trainer was made in July 1973. The first F-15B Eagle was delivered in November 1974 to the 58th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where pilot training was accomplished in both F-15A and B aircraft. The F-15B incorporates a tandem seating configuration, with a second crewmember position aft of the pilot's seat. The primary purpose of the F-15B is aircrew training, with an instructor pilot occupying the rear seat while an upgrading pilot mans the front seat controls. The rear seat pilot has a full set of flight controls and can fly the aircraft throughout the envelope, including takeoff and landing. Even though space is sacrificed to accomodate the second crew member, the F-15B retains the same warfighting capability as the F-15A. In keeping with the trainer concept, however, the rear seat is not equipped with controls for the combat avionics and weaponry. In fact, the rear seat is not a mandatory crew position, and F-15Bs are often flown with empty rear cockpits.
- The F-15C is an improved version of the original F-15A single-seat air superiority fighter. Additions incorporated in the F-15C include upgrades to avionics as well as increased internal fuel capacity and a higher allowable gross takeoff weight. The F-15C is armed with the AIM-7M Sparrow or AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), the AIM-9M Sidewinder, and a 20-millimeter cannon. The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory beginning in 1979. Kadena Air Base, Japan, received the first F-15C in September 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). Externally, the differences between the F-15A and F-15C are so slight as to make identification difficult; the only reliable indicator is the aircraft serial number. All F-15As have tail numbers starting with 73- through 77-, while F-15Cs have tail numbers beginning with 78- through 86-. The operational F-15C force structure is approximately 300 aircraft assigned to operational units. The F-15C is the Air Force's primary air superiority fighter, serving with active duty units at Langley AFB, VA, Eglin AFB, FL, Mountain Home AFB, ID, Elmendorf AFB, AK, Tyndall AFB, FL, Nellis AFB, NV, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, Lakenheath AB, England and Kadena AB, Okinawa. In the mid-1990s the F-15C experienced declining reliability indicators, primarily from three subsystems: radar, engines, and secondary structures. A complete retrofit of all three subsystems could be done for less than $3 billion.
- The F-15D is a two-seat variant of the single-place F-15C. The primary purpose of the F-15D is aircrew training, with an instructor pilot occupying the rear seat while an upgrading pilot mans the front seat controls. The primary purpose of the F-15B/D is aircrew training, with an instructor pilot occupying the rear seat while an upgrading pilot mans the front seat controls. The rear seat pilot has a full set of flight controls and can fly the aircraft throughout the envelope, including takeoff and landing. Even though space is sacrificed to accomodate the second crew member, the F-15B/D retains the same warfighting capability as the F-15A/C. In keeping with the trainer concept, however, the rear seat is not equipped with controls for the combat avionics and weaponry. In fact, the rear seat is not a mandatory crew position, and F-15B/Ds are often flown with empty rear cockpits.
- The F-15 E Strike Eagle was built to fulfill the role of the Dual Role Fighter (DRF)—having the ability to perform precision strike missions on its own and air-to-air interdiction. On 11 December 1986, the first F-15E (two-seat) flew its maiden flight. It is very similar to the F-15D except the aircraft is optimized for air-to-ground missions. Modifications included a stronger airframe, usage of conformal tanks, employment of a weapon’s systems officer (WSO), and, most importantly, upgraded avionics. Upgrades to the avionics included an improved radar for air-to-ground targeting; a two pod system for high speed, all-weather low level flight and targeting called Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN); and enhanced cockpit instrumentation. The 225 F-15Es purchased by the Air Force were assigned to Eglin AFB; Elmendorf AFB; RAF Lakenheath; Mountain Home AFB; Nellis AFB, Nevada; and Seymour Johnson AFB, South Carolina.
F-15C's, D's and E's were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm where they proved their superior combat capability with a confirmed 26:0 kill ratio.
The F-15C Eagle air superiority fighter was developed to arrive early during a battle, dominate enemy aircraft, and control access to the battle from the sky. Overall, these missions were performed frequently for short durations, with rapid airfield maintenance and quick turnaround times. During Desert Storm, the F-15C aircraft flew longer missions, refueled in flight, and provided air superiority over the battlefield to engage enemy aircraft while escorting other aircraft.
The F-15C routinely operates at medium altitudes (20,000 to 30,000 feet above mean sea level [MSL]) and flies missions up to 2 hours in duration with aerial refueling. Powered by two engines that each provide 18,000 pounds of thrust, the F-15C achieves speeds in excess of 1,650 miles per hour. In normal air-to-air combat modes, the F-15C uses power settings ranging from above 90 percent to afterburner. F-15Cs generally use afterburner to achieve supersonic speeds.
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