The Eagle was McDonnell Douglas' response to the U.S. Air Force's need for an air superiority fighter in 1968. Since its first flight in 1972, the Eagle perpetrated 104 kills in the air superiority role without a single loss.
During the Vietnam War, powerful and expensive fighters which were to rely on missiles had instead to approach smaller and cheaper MiG-15s and MiG-17s to identify the opposing aircraft and counteract the lacking effectiveness of missiles. F-4s retrofitted with guns finally fulfilled this role in the interim. However, to dogfight, it was discovered that power, more than speed, is important. Therefore, an aircraft with a 1:1 thrust ratio fully loaded, with a takeoff weight of no more than 40,000 pounds (18,000 kg), with low wing loading, and with a maximum speed of Mach 2.5 was requested.
From technical proposals offered by Fairchild Republic, North American Rockwell, and McDonnell Douglas, the U.S. Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas’ design as “the first dedicated USAF air superiority fighter since the North American F-86 Sabre.” 2,000 Eagles have since been built.
The F-15 was designed for a single pilot, a large forward-mounted canopy favouring visibility. Its high thrust-to-weight ratio allows it to accelerate in vertical flight. Its two pulse-Doppler radars (APG-63 and 70) can distinguish low-flying targets from ground clutter and effectively track enemy high-flying aircraft as well at a distance of 160 km.
The Eagle can be loaded with combinations of AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, or AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. It can also carry a variety of bombs for ground attack, and includes the M61 Vulcan gun for self-defence.
Israel is an important operator of the F-15, and has used it effectively in the Lebanon War against MiG-21s, MiG-23s, MiG-25s, and in long-distance ground strikes. The Eagle has also operated in the Gulf War, and additionally serves in the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and in the Royal Saudi Air Force.
The Eagle is to remain operational past 2025, and is still in production until 2019. Because further production of the F-22 Raptor has been discontinued, the F-15 may remain in service longer than originally anticipated. The F-15 has been developed into different variants such as the F-15E Strike Eagle for ground attack and the stealthy F-15SE Silent Eagle.
Speed and Altitude
To demonstrate the Eagle’s acceleration capabilities, an F-15 stripped of paint and avionics broke eight time-to-climb world records in 1975. The F-15 can climb to 10 km in one minute.
Although no F-15 has been lost in aerial combat, 175 Eagles have been lost in non-combat accidents – 1 per 50,000 hours of flight.
In 1990, a Saudi Arabian pilot defected to Sudan. Saudi Arabia paid $40 million for the aircraft to be returned.
In 1994, F-15s accidentally shot down two friendly Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq.
Max. takeoff weight: 68,000 lb (30,845 kg)
- High altitude: Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph, 2,665+ km/h)
- Low altitude: Mach 1.2 (900 mph, 1,450 km/h)
Combat radius: 1,061 nmi (1,222 mi, 1,967 km) for interdiction mission
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