F-15E Strikes Eagle from
the 492nd Fighter Squadron return from a sortie in support for exercise
Red Flag 16-4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug 24, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
This is the only f-15e to shoot down another aircraft. It destroyed an Iraqi Mi-24 Hind with a pavement bomb during Desert Storm. It later became the first f-15e to log 10,000 flying hours over Afghanistan.
A F-15E Strike Eagle pilot approaches a KC-10 Extender from the 908th
Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron before conducting an aerial refuel
during a Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve mission
March 20, 2017. The F-15E is a dual-role fighter designed to perform
air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior
Airman Joshua A. Hoskins)
A six-ship formation of F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagles from the 366th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho fly over Idaho Oct. 13, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald
Ah, the result of the height of the intercontinental pants-shitting contest otherwise known as the Cold War. You see, a long time ago, the US Air Force wanted a weird airplane called the XB-70. The idea was to make a high-altitude, supersonic nuclear bomber. They flew some test flights, and ultimately decided that increasingly lethal SAMs and interceptors made the concept non-viable. However, the Soviets caught wind of it and immediately shat their pants. They developed the MiG-25 Foxbat specifically to counter the XB-70, which was never put into production. However, once they realized the XB-70 wasn’t going to be a thing, they were already in too deep in the Foxbat program and started fielding the stupid fuckers.
The MiG-25 is designed to do one thing: Fly really high, really fast, and shoot big heavy bombers. That’s it. But, the US, NATO, and their allies didn’t know that. The first introduction they had to the MiG-25 was when an Israeli F-4 Phantom spotted one on radar, throttled up to investigate, and was promptly left in the dust as the MiG nope’d the fuck outta there.
It was the US’ turn to shit their pants. As far as the west knew, they were dealing with God’s gift to combat aircraft: A fighter that could exceed Mach 3, turn on a dime, shoot impeccably accurate missiles BVR and gently seduce and fuck your mom using your dad’s tears as lube at the same time.
Obviously, this was unacceptable. The most perfect fighter jet ever created would have to be designed to counter this weird Soviet science. The ensuing efforts left us stuck with the Fighter Mafia and Pierre Sprey, so obviously it was a complete disaster.
Except for one thing: It brought us the F-15. Designed for pure air superiority, the fucker could pull 9 G’s, break the sound barrier flying straight up, had an excessively powerful radar to get the most of the godawful AIM-7 Sparrow in BVR engagements, refined the HOTAS concept… it was basically the Mary Poppins of air-to-air: Practically perfect in every way.
Except it was, and still is, a maintenance beast. The radar and computers were too advanced for its day. The highest failure component was the mechanical radar antenna in the nose, something that experts identified as the part that should be replaced with an AESA as soon as possible. The Air Force took one look at the cost of doing that, shat their pants, and settled for some other, less relevant improvements. The F-15 is finally, some 30 years later, receiving AESA radars, most of them going to ANG F-15Cs and the rollout is supposed to be completed at some point in the 2020s, IIRC. Remember, the Air Force is the smart branch.
Because, you see, the F-15 never came cheap. Its first flight was only 3 years after the F-14′s, and I’ve gone over what a turkey the F-14 was. The thing might as well have been made of solid gold for how much it cost. The US realized they could never afford enough of the things to take on a real air brawl with the Soviet Union, and started looking for a low-cost alternative to pad the numbers. They wound up selecting the F-16 as the preferable missile sponge for the Eagle. Sorry, Viper fans, it’s true.
The real punchline is that the MiG-25 could only exceed Mach 3 for a brief duration, would require both engines being replaced upon landing if it did so, and was so heavy and stupid its turn rate was competitive with glacial movement.
Nowadays the F-15 derives its reputation almost entirely from the Israeli Air Force, the source of the majority of its air-to-air kills against walleyed douchebags born into officer positions, and the infamous “flying home on one wing” story. In the US Air Force, driving an F-15C is considered a career killer, because for the most part, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS have precisely zero aircraft to speak of. Good luck squeezing combat hours out of that. If you drive an F-15E: Congratulations, you’re in what’s arguably the best CAS platform we’ve ever had, and all your thunder will be stolen by the A-10 and AC-130 thanks to kids raised on Desert Storm memes and Call of Duty. Meanwhile, the Air Force can’t be bothered to maintain the fuckers properly as they’re stuck with ever-mounting budget cuts while still shoveling money into the F-22 and F-35 programs.
On that note, the F-15 has grabbed headlines for spontaneously falling out of the sky. It’s almost like you can’t ignore things like airframe hours, the need for real spare parts, and adequate maintenance manning.