Aviation History

USAF to host events to celebrate 50th Anniversary of the maiden flight of the mighty F-15 Eagle

The events all mark a half-century of undefeated air dominance operations for the F-15 Eagle, the fighter that has never been shot down in combat.

The F-15 Eagle is celebrating its 50th birthday this month with events planned across the country.

As told by Daryl Mayer, AFLCMC Public Affairs, in the article Eagle to celebrate golden anniversary, there will be a celebration at the Boeing plant in St. Louis where all the F-15s were and are still being produced on Jul. 27.

The following day, Jul. 28, there will be a static display at Wright-Patterson and a celebration for program office personnel. On hand will be retired Col. Cesar Rodriguez who has the most MiG kills since the Vietnam War. He shot down two MiGs during the Gulf War in 1991 and another one over Kosovo in 1999.

On Jul. 29, will be the F-15 Expo at the National Museum of the US Air Force as well as a Gathering of Eagles banquet that evening.

Finally, on Aug. 5, the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, Georgia, will host a festival with a cake ceremony, scavenger hunt and community events honoring the F-15.

McDonnell Douglas F-15A (S/N 71-0280, the first F-15A prototype). Note the square wingtips and unnotched stabilator.

The events all mark a half-century of undefeated air dominance operations for the fighter that has never been shot down in combat.

Greg (Sherlock) Watson, who is an IPT lead for the F-15 Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, and Craig (BJ) Hunnicutt, a program manager for the F-15 Division at Robins AFB, joined on an episode of AFLCMC’s Leadership Log podcast to discuss this extraordinary platform. They have more than 5,000 hours combined in the F-15E.

Then McDonnell Douglas formalized the concept for the F-15 in 1967 when the company was selected to enter the second phase of the US Air Force’s FX competition. Competing against Fairchild Hiller and North American Rockwell, McDonnell used lessons learned during the Vietnam War on the changing nature of jet age air-to-air combat, given that the F-4 Phantom II was earning its reputation as a formidable fighter. On Dec. 23, 1969, after more than two years of intensive testing and evaluation, the Air Force awarded McDonnell Douglas the F-15 Advanced Tactical Fighter contract. The McDonnell Douglas team had placed first among the three competitors in all phases of the competition and had the lowest contract price.

The first production McDonnell Douglas F-15C (S/N 78-468) in flight

The McDonnell Douglas team aimed to make a revolutionary leap forward.

The Eagle’s most notable characteristics are its great acceleration and maneuverability. It was the first US fighter with engine thrust greater than the basic weight of the aircraft, allowing it to accelerate while in a vertical climb. Its great power, light weight and large wing area combine to make the Eagle very agile.

“It was designed with energy maneuverability in mind with the most power we could put on an airplane with two Pratt & Whitney F-100 engines at the top of their game and with the biggest radar that we can put on an air-to-air fighter in the APG-63 out of Hughes which later became Raytheon,” Watson said.

First McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle which from Mar. 2, 1987 was used at Edwards Air Force Base for Developmental Test & Evaluation.

They mixed that with a 20 mm gun and as many missiles at they could carry.

“We could fly further, we could fly faster, we could fly longer than any other fighter out there,” Watson said.

The first F-15A flight was made in July 1972, and the first flight of the two-seat F-15B (formerly TF-15A) trainer was made in July 1973. The first Eagle (F-15B) was delivered in November 1974. In January 1976, the first Eagle destined for a combat squadron was delivered.

F-15EX Eagle II prototype

The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory beginning in 1979.

Jun. 24 marked the date in 1979 that Israeli F-15s shot down three Syrian MiGs starting the aircraft’s 104-0 combat record.

To meet the US Air Force requirement for air-to-ground missions, the F-15E Strike Eagle was developed. It made its first flight from St. Louis in December 1986.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-15C Eagle 36th TFW, 22d TFS, BT/79-051 / 1981

“In addition to being revolutionary, the jet has been very evolutionary as well,” Hunnicutt said citing the transition from analog to digital computers, moving from dials and knobs to touch screens and the addition of GPS.

On Mar. 11, 2021 the most advanced version to date of the F-15, the F-15EX Eagle II was delivered to the USAF. The F-15EX will simply fall in on the mission of the F-15C/D, but since in the 2030s the F-15E comes to the end of its service life the EX could shift to more of the Strike Eagle model’s ground-attack mission.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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