The F-15E Strike Eagle is the ground-attack version of the F-15. It is a two-seater, holding a pilot and weapons system officer, or WSO pronounced "wizzo". It carries both air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance. It can be distinguished from a F-15C because it has conformal fuel tanks on either side of the engine nacelles, and is a two-seater. If you see a two-seater without the conformal fuel tanks, it is the training version of the C and is an F-15D.

The F-15 Eagle employs an Advanced Technology Engine (improved turbofan). It has a speed of more than Mach 2 and a range of more than 2,000 miles. Its twin turbofan engines develop 50,000 pounds of thrust and the combat-loaded Eagle weighs about 40,000 pounds. Since its thrust is greater than its weight, the F-15 is able to accelerate straight up. The high thrust-to-weight ratio also makes the aircraft more responsive to the pilot's commands and therefore more maneuverable.

The F-15 was designed specifically as an all-weather air superiority fighter, but it also has the ability to attack ground targets. It is armed with one 20-mm multi-barrel gun and with advanced model Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles. This single-seat aircraft first flew in July 1972. Its electronic equipment includes a lightweight radar system for long-range detection and tracking of small high-speed objects, such as enemy missiles. This system also ensures effective delivery of the F-15's weapon payload. After testing and acceptance, the F-15A came into the Air Force's operational inventory late in 1974. It is built by the McDonnell Company who produced the F-4. The F-15B is a two-seat trainer version of the F-15A and there are also F-15C and D models being built which are longer-range aircraft.

SOURCE: "Aerospace: The Challenge" Second Edition 1983


Manufactured by the famous McDonnell Douglas aircraft company (made famous by the F-4 Phantom) the upgraded F-15C took to the air in February 1979. Designed to be America's foremost air superiority fighter the F-15C Eagle has done it's job well. With excellent visibility, avionics, agility, and an M61 Vulcan 20-mm cannon mounted on the inside of the right wing, its only slight disadvantage in a dogfight is its immense size and radar cross section. But then again, size isn't much of an issue when you can destroy your prey at up to 45 miles away.

The newer C model Eagle has gotten an improved APG-70 radar with longer range, good "lookdown/shootdown" capability, and more reliability. The only drawback is that the radar is only foward looking, as is the case with almost any fighter. The F-15C, like the E variant has a Tracor AN/ALE-45 chaff and flare dispenser positioned right behind the nosewheel doors. The fuselage itself is made mostly of composites, titanium, and steel.

The Eagle has enormous power and can outrace almost any aircraft-for a short period of time. When travelling more economically, the Eagle can make a transatlantic flight without aerial refueling. The new Su-27 Flanker (the Eagle's current nemesis) can outclimb it, and can be equiped with longer range weaponry than the Eagle, but normally carries similar armament. As for now, almost 100 aircraft have been downed by Eagles (not neccessarily American ones) without an aerial loss of their own. In the Gulf War alone, 32 Iraqi aircraft were downed by the Eagle. Exports of the fighter have been made to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, and production of the F-15 has surpassed 1000. The Eagle is due to be replaced over the next couple of decades or so by F-22 Raptor.


Type: Single-seat air-superiority fighter

Powerplant: Two 23,760-lb.-thrust Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-220 afterburning turbofans.

Max Speed: 1,650 mph (roughly Mach 2.5)

Range: More than 3,565 mi. with external fuel tanks.

Service Ceiling: 60,000 feet (although can climb up to 98,400 ft.)

Weapons: One 20-mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon; up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles; up to four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles; pylons for up to 1,500 lb. of bombs, rockets, and missiles.

Weights: Empty-28,160 lbs. Max Takeoff-67,870 lbs.

Span 43 ft.
Length 64 ft.
Height 18 ft.
Wing Area 608 sq. ft.

The story of the F-15 really begins in Korea on December 7, 1950, when Lt. Col. Bruce H. Hinton scored the first air-to-air kill for the F-86 Sabre. For the first time in the conflict, the Americans had an aircraft that could counter the threat from the Soviet MiG-15. At the end of the conflict, the USAF had achieved a 10:1 kill ratio and effectively owned the skies.


On paper, the F-86 was barely a match for the more agile MiG. Initially, the success of the Sabre was chalked up to the superior training and tactics of the American pilots, however the tactics used were originally designed for WWII-era piston aircraft, and American pilots were often rotated off the front lines. Years later, Sabre pilot Col. John Boyd would begin to decipher this riddle.

In 1953 Boyd became flight commander and tactics instructor for his squadron. At the time, the USAF was dominated by the "bomber generals" at SAC, who thought that the age of the dogfight was over. The Air Force had no formal doctrine regarding air-to-air combat. By 1960, Boyd would literally write the book on dogfighting in the jet age, and in the process discover the secret to the F-86's success.

Later that year, Boyd began attending Georgia Tech. He had a lot of ideas about air-to-air combat, but lacked the technical knowledge to solidify his theories. In 1962 he met Tom Christie and began working on what would later become his Energy-Maneuverability Theory. Boyd thought that for an aircraft to achieve and maintain the advantage in a fight, it would have to be able to increase its energy more rapidly than its adversary, and therefore should have a higher thrust-to-drag ratio. This and other factors Boyd believed could determine an aircraft's chances of victory in a fight. He concluded that the F-86 was a successful fighter because of its ability to easily transition from one maneuver to another. Additional factors like the high visibility of the bubble canopy and the easy stick clinched its role as the dominant fighter of the war.


In 1961 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara began the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program. The TFX was to be a multi-role fighter/bomber designed to meet the disparate needs of both the Air Force and the Navy. At the time, the Navy was busy working on the AIM-54 Phoenix missile and what would become the F-14 Tomcat, and wanted nothing to do with the TFX. Meanwhile, the Air Force was sick of having Navy aircraft like the F-4 Phantom II foisted on them, and wanted to take control of the TFX program.

The TFX was a heavy, swing-wing aircraft capable of moving fairly fast, provided it wasn't turning. It was complex, expensive, and unsuited to the needs of either branch. Though it would eventually enter service with the Air Force as the F-111, the Navy rejected it outright. TFX was floundering, and the USAF still didn't have a winner.

To make matters worse, the war in Vietnam was not going well for the Air Force. In a dogfight, the F-4 couldn't keep up with the tiny MiGs. The Sparrow missiles the Phantom carried were designed to be used against bombers, and were nearly useless against fighters. Rules of Engagement required visual identification of enemy aircraft before action could be taken, and at such close ranges if its missiles failed, there was little the F-4 could do- it had no gun.

The Air Force needed help, when in 1965 Boyd delivered his E-M presentation to two Air Force generals. Not long after, Boyd was called to the Pentagon.


On July 9, 1967, the Soviet Union unveiled the MiG-25 at an air show in Moscow. In October, the Foxbat would set a speed record of 1,852 miles per hour. The Air Force, already having difficulty countering the existing Soviet threat, desperately needed a new fighter. So the F-15, the first air-to-air combat aircraft requested since the F-86, was born.

Lessons learned from the TFX, Vietnam and Boyd's theories dictated the design requirements for the F-15. For the first time in years, the top speed of the aircraft was less important than its maneuverability. While missiles would still be the primary weapon of the fighter aircraft, they were useless if you couldn't attain a favorable firing position on your enemy. Boyd's E-M theory described a successful fighter as being lightweight, possessing a large wing area and producing as much thrust as possible.

In 1968, at the behest of DoD Research and Engineering Director Dr. John Foster, NASA was invited to participate in the design competition. Engineers at the Langley Research Center generated a number of designs, and advised the primary contractors on their discoveries. One of these designs, the LFAX-8 was adapted by McDonnell Douglas into the aircraft that would eventually win the contract. Engineers at Langley continued to participate in the design of the aircraft, fine-tuning the aerodynamic characteristics of the fighter.

Designers continued to innovate inside the cockpit as well. The Air Force's tendency towards gadgetry, while not halted, was finally being tailored to the needs of the pilot. The Heads Up Display (HUD) and Hands On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) systems allowed the pilot to keep his eyes outside the cockpit at all times. The HUD provides mission data projected in front of the pilot while HOTAS allows the pilot to control all aspects of the aircraft without ever looking down.

When the F-15 first flew in 1972 it already far outclassed anything in the sky. It has taken 25 years for any aircraft to approach its performance. As mentioned above, it has a spotless combat record, scoring 101 kills with 0 losses. The Eagle's first kills came on July 27, 1979 when the IAF downed 5 Syrian MiG-21s. On February 13th, 1981 an F-15 was finally given the opportunity to be tested against the feared MiG-25, and won. It was soon learned that if a Foxbat pilot wanted to survive a fight with an Eagle, he would have to run.

The C variant is soon to be phased out in favor of the F-22 Raptor. However, the A, B, D and E variants will continue service with the Air Force and Air National Guard.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.