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The NF-15B ACTIVE is the most
maneuverable of any F-15 variant, but she didn’t start out that way.
This airframe, originally designated the TF-15B (USAF serial number
71-0290), looked much like a typical F-15. She took her first flight
on July 7, 1973, as the first two-seat F-15 in history and the sixth
F-15 to roll off the assembly line.
On September 7, 1988, she would
have her “second first flight” following major modifications as
the STOL/MTD (Short Takeoff and Landing/Maneuver Technology
Demonstrator). Modified F-18 stabilators were put in place forward of
the wing as canards. Thrust vectoring in the pitch axis was also
implemented, allowing takeoff rotation at only 39 knots and drastically
shorter landing distances.
In 1991, the STOL/MTD test program
ended, and the USAF loaned the airframe to NASA, who modified it into
the NF-15B ACTIVE (Advanced Control Technology for Integrated
Vehicles). The pitch thrust vectoring was traded for nozzles that
could be vectored in pitch and yaw. This allowed for
incredible maneuverability. The bird could perform yawing maneuvers
while flying at 30 degrees angle of attack.
Although never implemented, there
were plans to further modify this airframe by removing the vertical
tail planes, allowing thrust vectoring to be wholly responsible for
yawing maneuvers. This would have been called the F-15 MANX, named
after the naturally tailless cat.
After decades of serving NASA
Dryden Flight Research Center (now NASA Armstrong) as a successful
experimental testbed for many different test programs, the NF-15
ACTIVE took its final flight in January 2009. On this last flight,
she was the oldest still flying F-15. In July of 2015, she was put on static display at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force