The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat.
The Eagle’s air superiority is achieved through a mixture of unprecedented maneuverability and acceleration, range, weapons and avionics. It can penetrate enemy defense and outperform and outfight any current or projected enemy aircraft. The F-15 has electronic systems and weaponry to detect, acquire, track and attack enemy aircraft while operating in friendly or enemy-controlled airspace. Its weapons and flight control systems are designed so one person can safely and effectively perform air-to-air combat.
The F-15’s superior maneuverability and acceleration are achieved through high engine thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing loading. Low wing-loading (the ratio of aircraft weight to its wing area) is a vital factor in maneuverability and, combined with the high thrust-to-weight ratio, enables the aircraft to turn tightly without losing airspeed.
A multimission avionics system sets the F-15 apart from other fighter aircraft. It includes a head-up display, advanced radar, inertial navigation system, flight instruments, UHF communications, tactical navigation system and instrument landing system. It also has an internally mounted, tactical electronic-warfare system, “identification friend or foe” system, electronic countermeasures set and a central digital computer.
Through an on-going multistage improvement program the F-15 is receiving extensive upgrade involving the installation or modification of new and existing avionics equipment to enhance the tactical capabilities of the F-15.
The head-up display projects on the windscreen all essential flight information gathered by the integrated avionics system. This display, visible in any light condition, provides the pilot information necessary to track and destroy an enemy aircraft without having to look down at cockpit instruments.
The F-15’s versatile pulse-Doppler radar system can look up at high-flying targets and down at low-flying targets without being confused by ground clutter. It can detect and track aircraft and small high-speed targets at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to tree-top level. The radar feeds target information into the central computer for effective weapons delivery. For close-in dog fights, the radar automatically acquires enemy aircraft, and this information is projected on the head-up display.
An inertial navigation system enables the Eagle to navigate anywhere in the world. It gives aircraft position at all times as well as pitch, roll, heading, acceleration and speed information.
The F-15’s electronic warfare system provides both threat warning and automatic countermeasures against selected threats. The “identification friend or foe” system informs the pilot if an aircraft seen visually or on radar is friendly. It also informs U.S. or allied ground stations and other suitably equipped aircraft that the F-15 is a friendly aircraft.
A variety of air-to-air weaponry can be carried by the F-15. An automated weapon system enables the pilot to perform aerial combat safely and effectively, using the head-up display and the avionics and weapons controls located on the engine throttles or control stick. When the pilot changes from one weapon system to another, visual guidance for the required weapon automatically appears on the head-up display.
The Eagle can be armed with combinations of four different air-to-air weapons: AIM-7F/M Sparrow missiles or AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles on its lower fuselage corners, AIM-9L/M Sidewinder or AIM-120 missiles on two pylons under the wings, and an internal 20mm Gatling gun (with 940 rounds of ammunition) in the right wing root.
Low-drag, conformal fuel tanks were especially developed for the F-15C and D models. Conformal fuel tanks can be attached to the sides of the engine air intake trunks under each wing and are designed to the same load factors and airspeed limits as the basic aircraft. Each conformal fuel tank contains about 114 cubic feet of usable space. These tanks reduce the need for in-flight refueling on global missions and increase time in the combat area. All external stations for munitions remain available with the tanks in use. AIM-7F/M Sparrow and AIM-120 missiles, moreover, can be attached to the corners of the conformal fuel tanks.
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 to the 58th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where pilot training was accomplished in both F-15A and B aircraft. In January 1976, the first Eagle destined for a combat squadron was delivered to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va.
Other units equipped with F-15s include the 36th Fighter Wing, Bitburg Air Base, Germany; 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.; 33d Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; 32d Fighter Squadron, Soesterberg AB, Netherlands; and the 3d Fighter Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. In January 1982, the 48th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Langley Air Force Base became the first Air Force air defense squadron to transition to the F-15.
The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory beginning in 1979. Kadena Air Base, Japan, received the first F-15C in September 1979. These new models have Production Eagle Package (PEP 2000) improvements, including 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of additional internal fuel, provision for carrying exterior conformal fuel tanks and increased maximum takeoff weight of up to 68,000 pounds (30,600 kilograms).
F-15C’s, D’s and E’s were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm where they proved their superior combat capability with a confirmed 26:0 kill ratio.