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Air Power F15 Eagle

Air Power F15 Eagle (Aircraft / Planes)

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Tags: plane (123 pics), f15 eagle (17 pics), f15 (16 pics)

F-15 Eagle

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. Developed for the United States Air Force, it first flew in Jul. 1972 (46 years ago), and is one of the most recognized modern fighters. The F-15 is expected to remain in service until 2025. Despite originally being envisaged as a pure air superiority aircraft, the design proved flexible enough that an all-weather strike derivative, the F-15E Strike Eagle, was later developed, and entered service in 1989 (29 years ago).

Origins

Following studies in 1964-1965, the U.S. Air Force developed requirements for an air superiority fighter in Oct. 1965 (53 years ago). Then on 8 dec. 1965 (53 years ago), the Air Force issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the new fighter. The request called for both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. Eight companies responded with proposals. In the following study phase, four of these companies developed some 500 design concepts. Typical designs featured variable-sweep wings, weighed over 60,000 lb (27,200 kg), included a top speed of Mach 2.7 and a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.75. The designs were not accepted by the Air Force as they compromised fighter qualities for ground attack qualities. Acceptance of the Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) theory by the Air Force led to a change in requirements for improved maneuverability by the spring 1967 (51 years ago). The design mission weight was reduced to 40,000 lb (18,100 kg), top speed reduced to Mach 2.3-2.5 and thrust-to-weight ratio increased to 0.97.

In 1967 (51 years ago) U.S. intelligence was surprised to find that the Soviet Union was building a large fighter aircraft, the MiG-25 'Foxbat'. It was not known in the West at the time that the MiG-25 was designed as a high-speed interceptor, not an air superiority fighter, so its primary asset was speed, not maneuverability. The MiG-25's huge tailplanes and vertical stabilizers (tail fins) hinted at a very maneuverable aircraft, which worried the Air Force that its performance might be higher than its U.S. counterparts. In reality, the MiG's large fins and stabilators were necessary to prevent the aircraft from encountering inertia coupling in high-speed, high-altitude flight.

The F-4 Phantom II (4 pics) of the USAF and U.S. Navy was the only fighter with enough power, range, and maneuverability to be given the primary task of dealing with the threat of Soviet fighters while flying with visual engagement rules. As a matter of policy, the Phantoms could not engage targets without positive visual identification, so they could not engage targets at long ranges, as designed. Medium-range AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, and to a lesser degree even the AIM-9 Sidewinder, were often unreliable and ineffective at close ranges where it was found that guns were often the only effective weapon. The Phantom did not originally have a gun, but experience in Vietnam led to the addition of a gun. An external gun pod was tried and later the M61 Vulcan was integrated internally on the F-4E.

F-X program

There was a clear need for a new fighter that overcame the close-range limitation of the Phantom while retaining long-range air superiority. After rejecting the U.S. Navy VFX program (which led to the F-14 Tomcat) as being unsuited to its needs, the U.S. Air Force issued its own requirements for the Fighter Experimental (F-X), a specification for a relatively lightweight air superiority fighter. The requirements called for single-seat fighter having a maximum take-off weight of 40,000 lb (18,100 kg) for the air-to-air role with a maximum speed of Mach 2.5 and a thrust to weight ratio of nearly 1 at mission weight. Four companies submitted proposals, with the Air Force eliminating General Dynamics and awarded contracts to Fairchild Republic, North American Rockwell, and McDonnell Douglas for the definition phase in dec. 1968 (50 years ago). The companies submitted technical proposals by Jun. 1969 (49 years ago). The Air Force announced the selection of McDonnell Douglas on 23 dec. 1969 (49 years ago). The winning design resembled the twin-tailed F-14, but with fixed wings. It would not be significantly lighter or smaller than the F-4 that it would replace.

The Eagle's initial versions were designated F-15A for the single-seat configuration and F-15B (originally TF-15A, but this designation was quickly deprecated, as the F-15B is fully combat-capable) for the twin-seat. These versions would be powered by new Pratt & Whitney F100 engines to achieve a combat thrust-to-weight ratio in excess of 1 to 1. A proposed 25 mm Ford-Philco GAU-7 cannon with caseless ammunition was dropped in favor of the standard M61 Vulcan gun due to development problems. The F-15 retained conformal carriage of four Sparrow missiles like the Phantom. The fixed wing was put onto a flat, wide fuselage that also provided an effective lifting surface. Some questioned if the zoom performance of the F-15 with Sparrow missiles was enough to deal with the new threat of the high-flying MiG-25 "Foxbat", but its capability was eventually demonstrated in combat.

The first F-15A flight was made in Jul. 1972 (46 years ago) with the first flight of the two-seat F-15B (formerly TF-15A) following in Jul. 1973 (45 years ago).

The F-15 has a "look-down/shoot-down" radar that can distinguish low-flying moving targets from ground clutter. The F-15 would use computer technology with new controls and displays to lower pilot workload and require only one pilot to save weight. Unlike the F-14 or F-4, the F-15 has only a single canopy frame with clear vision forward. The USAF introduced the F-15 as "the first dedicated USAF air superiority fighter since the F-86 Sabre."

The F-15 would be favored by customers such as the Israel Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and the development of the F-15E Strike Eagle would produce a strike fighter that would replace the F-111. However, criticism from the fighter mafia that the F-15 was too large to be a dedicated dogfighter, and too expensive to procure in large numbers to replace the F-4 and A-7, led to the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) program, which led to the USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon and the middle-weight Navy F/A-18 Hornet.

Further development

The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered production in 1978 (40 years ago) with the models' first flights in Feb. and Jun. of that year. These new models have Production Eagle Package (PEP 2000 (18 years ago)) improvements, including 2,000 lb (900 kg) of additional internal fuel, provision for carrying exterior conformal fuel tanks and increased maximum takeoff weight of up to 68,000 lb (30,700 kg). The additional takeoff weight allows internal fuel, a full weapons load, conformal fuel tanks, and three external fuel tanks to be carried. Other improvement on the C and D models included strengthened landing gear, radar improvements, and a new digital central computer. An overload warning system was also added, which allows the pilot to fly the fighter to 9 g at all weights.

The F-15 Multistage Improvement Program (MSIP) was initiated in Feb. 1983 (35 years ago) with the first production MSIP F-15C produced in 1985 (33 years ago). Improvements included an upgraded central computer; a Programmable Armament Control Set, allowing for advanced versions of the AIM-7, AIM-9, and AIM-120A missiles; and an expanded Tactical Electronic Warfare System that provides improvements to the ALR-56C radar warning receiver and ALQ-135 countermeasure set. The final 43 F-15Cs included the enhanced-capability Hughes APG-70 radar, which was developed for the F-15E. The earlier MSIP F-15Cs with the APG-63 were later upgraded to the APG-63(V)1, which significantly improves reliability and maintainability while providing performance similar to the APG-70. The improvements were retrofitted to existing F-15s.

In 1979 (39 years ago), McDonnell Douglas and F-15 radar manufacturer, Hughes, teamed to privately develop a strike version of the F-15. This version competed in the Air Force's Dual-Role Fighter competition starting in 1982 (36 years ago). The F-15E strike variant was selected for production in 1984 (34 years ago).

Beginning in 1985 (33 years ago), F-15C and D models were equipped with the improved P&W F100-220 engine. It added a digital engine control to allow for quicker throttle response, less wear, and reduced fuel burn. The original F100-100 engines were upgraded to a similar configuration with the designation F100-200E starting in 1997 (21 years ago) and were ongoing as of 2007 (11 years ago).

Recent upgrades include retrofiting 178 F-15C fighters with the AN/APG-63(V)3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar with delivery beginning in early 2009 (9 years ago). Additionally, the Air Force also plans to upgrade other F-15s with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS).


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