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F-15 Eagle Fighter

The F-15 Fighter is a single-seat or two-seat, supersonic, long~range, all-weather air superiority fighter built by the McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation, now Boeing. The F-15 Fighter was a tremendous step forward in fighter airplane technology. The F-15 Fighter is powered by two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-100 turbofan engines with variable afterburning thrust. The airplane has a shoulder-mounted swept wing with twin horizontal ramp inlets and twin vertical stabilizers. The wing, which was designed primarily for transonic maneuverability, has no active maneuver enhancement devices.

The F-15 Eagle is a highly maneuverable, all-weather air superiority fighter. The F-15 was developed as an air superiority fighter to counter the threat predicted for the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Air Force's post-Vietnam rebuilding involved applying improved technology. The battle for control of the skies over North Vietnam underscored the need for a dogfighting aircraft that featured maneuverability before speed-one armed with missiles and cannon. Begun in the late 1960s and operational in the mid-1970s, the F-15 Eagle and the single engine F-16 Fighting Falcon filled this need. The twin-engine F-15 was the more expensive of the two new aircraft being procured.

Full-scale work related to the development of the air superiority fighter aircraft F-15 was started on 01 January 1970. The management of F-15 the program was centered at Wright Field, at the Aeronautical Systems Division of Systems Command. The Air Force F-15 advanced tactical fighter flew for the first time on 27 July 1972. By early 1974 the F-15 was nearing the completion of the major development efforts and with few exceptions, had met program milestones. In 1976 US Air Forces in Europe [USAFE] began converting to the F-15, a new fighter designed to win the battle for air superiority against the MiG-25 and the next generation of Soviet fighters. USAFE’s first two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle joined the 48th Fighter Wing in February 1992. In addition to the traditional air superiority the F-15E could carry out all-weather deep interdiction strikes with conventional or nuclear weapons.

The Eagle's ability to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat results from a combination of outstanding maneuverability and acceleration, range, along with superior weapons and avionics. The F-15's electronic systems detect, acquire, and track enemy aircraft while operating in either friendly or enemy-controlled airspace. Its weapons and flight control systems are designed so one person can effectively perform air-to-air combat. It can penetrate enemy defense and outperform and outfight current or projected enemy aircraft. The F-15 capabilities include its look-down/shoot-down radar (allowing it to filter out ground clutter and detect low flying enemy aircraft) and its ability to fire the Air Force's current medium-range, air-to-air missile. Because this missile-the AIM-7-is radar guided and fired from beyond visual range, the F-15 is expected to attack enemy aircraft before the enemy can engage it.

The Air Force and the Navy jointly funded the engine development project to develop common-core engines for the Air Force F-15 aircraft (F-100 engine) and the Navy F-14B aircraft (F-401 engine). The F401 was a larger version of the FlOO engine and, like the FlOO, required the application of technology that could not be adequately developed within the program's funding and schedule constraints. The Navy spent $369 million on developing the F401. The Navy eventually came to believe that the engine would not be right for its needs and pulled out of the program. The program was suspended in 1973 because of reported engine failures and funding constraints. The Air Force had to shoulder a $500 million cost increase as a result.

In the 1970s US military aviation progressed from the F-4/F-8 air superiority fighters to the F-15/16/18 aircraft, which demonstrated significant improvements in maneuver performance. These improvements result from more sophisticated aerodynamic design, lower wing-loading, and higher thrust-to-weight ratio, and they permit the newer fighters to maneuver as well at 7 to 8 g's as the earlier aircraft did at 4 to 5 g's. The newer fighters also track as well at 7 to 8 g's as their predecessors did at 4 to 5 g's. This is attributed largely to their improved aerodynamics and more sophisticated control systems, which permit them to operate at higher load factors with lower levels of buffet intensity and wing rock than their predecessors.

The F-15's superior maneuverability and acceleration are the result of high engine thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing loading. The F-15 was the first operational US aircraft whose engines' thrust exceeded the plane's loaded weight, permitting it to accelerate even in vertical climb. Low wing-loading (the ratio of aircraft weight to its wing area) is an important factor in maneuverability which combined with high thrust-to-weight ratio, enables the aircraft to turn tightly without losing airspeed. Six of the eight world time-to-height records set in 1975 by the F-15A, Project Streak Eagle, remain unbeaten. These include a climb to 65,616 feet in two minutes, 2.94 seconds.

The multimission avionics system set the F-15 apart from other fighter aircraft. It includes a head-up display, advanced radar, inertial navigation system, flight instruments, UHF communications, tactical navigation system and instrument landing system. It also has an internally mounted, tactical electronic-warfare system, "identification friend or foe" system, electronic countermeasures set and a central digital computer.

The US Air Force claims the F-15C is in several respects inferior to, or at best equal to, the MiG-29, Su-27, Su-35/37, Rafale, and EF-2000, which are variously superior in acceleration, maneuverability, engine thrust, rate of climb, avionics, firepower, radar signature, or range. Although the F-15C and Su-27P series are similar in many categories, the Su-27 can outperform the F-15C at both long and short ranges. In long-range encounters, with its superior radar, the Su-27 can launch a missile before the F-15C does, so from a purely kinematic standpoint, the Russian fighters outperform the F-15C in the beyond-visual-range fight. The Su-35 phased array radar is superior to the APG-63 Doppler radar in both detection range and tracking capabilities. A few F-15Cs are equipped with the APG-63(V2) Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar and Fighter Data Link (FDL). Additionally, the Su-35 propulsion system increases the aircraft's maneuverability with thrust vectoring nozzles. Simulations conducted by British Aerospace and the British Defense Research Agency compared the effectiveness of the F-15C, Rafale, EF-2000, and F-22 against the Russian Su-35 armed with active radar missiles similar to the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The Rafale achieved a 1:1 kill ratio (1 Su-35 destroyed for each Rafale lost). The EF-2000 kill ratio was 4.5:1 while the F-22 achieved a ratio of 10:1. In stark contrast was the F-15C, losing 1.3 Eagles for each Su-35 destroyed.

The F-15E retains an air superiority capability and adds systems, such as advanced imaging and targeting systems, to meet the requirement for all-weather, deep penetration, and night/under-the-weather, air-to-surface attack. Configured with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), the F-15E deploys worldwide with minimal tanker support and arrives combat-ready. During the Balkan conflict, the F-15E was the only fighter able to attack ground targets around the clock [the F-117 only flew at night], in all weather conditions. The F-15E fleet continued to provide support for on-going operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The F-15E performed superbly in Operations DESERT STORM, OAF, OEF and OIF. In 2009, F-15Es delivered 54% of the 2000lb JDAMs and 29% of the 500lb JDAMs employed in that area of operations.

The F-15 family of aircraft has a perfect air-combat record of more than 104 victories and zero defeats. The F-15 continues to provide air superiority with an undefeated and unmatched aerial combat record. F-15s downed four MiG-29 fighters during the Balkan conflict and 33 of the 35 fixed-wing aircraft Iraq lost in air combat during Operation Desert Storm.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2021 17:55:30 ZULU