The 60’s were a decade of innovation, from the first video game console, computer mouse, and cool cars like the Datsun 240Z! But the year 1967 birthed the concept of a new American fighter, one that would compete against the Fairchild Hiller and North American Rockwell. The Vietnam War had presented a platform for the F-4 Phantom to prove itself, but lessons had been learned and advancements were required to enter the next phase of air-to-air combat. Christmas came early on December 23rd, 1969 as McDonnell Douglas earned the Air Force’s blessing for a new fighter contract, officially starting the legacy of the “Eagle.”
The Specs of the F-15
Two P&W F100 or two GE F110 turbofans offer 29,000lbs of thrust class (with afterburning) into an airframe that’s only 63.8ft long and 42.8 feet wide. The max gross takeoff weight of 81,000lbs includes an armament of cannons, precision guided munitions, and medium/short-range missiles which vary based on specific fighter categories. For the F-15A/B/C/D air-to-air category, the plane is retrofitted with a 20mm cannon, AIM-120 (AMRAAM) missiles, AIM-9 (Sidewinder) missiles, and AIM-7 (Sparrow) missiles. With a top speed of 1,875 mph, 2,400 mile range, and a max service ceiling of 65,000 feet, the F-15 is designed to be utilized in a variety of missions.
Proving Run for the F-15
The year is 1979…the Cold War is running rampant, and the Soviets are doing their best to arm the Syrians and Egypt with the best air defense available. During this period, the answer was the proven Soviet Mig-21. The Israeli government turned to the west, and the United States delivered (x25) F-15’s on June 27th, 1979. With virtually no prior combat experience, the F-15’s had yet to make a name. Little did they know, the opportunity would come only minutes later.
That same afternoon, (x4) Syrian Mig-21’s were detected rapidly approaching Israeli airspace…the challenge was met with the launch of (x4) F-15’s.
Brig. Gen. Moshe Melnik was one of the four Eagle drivers who took to the skies that afternoon. Utilizing the Python 3 missile (which was specifically designed for the Israeli F-15’s), Moshe and his airmen were able to successfully defeat the enemy in a matter of 30 seconds.
Check out this short video from the Smithsonian with actual footage from Brig. Gen. Moshe Melnik’s F-15!
Today there are currently 670 F-15’s protecting the skies in bases along the USA, Europe, and Asia. The “Eagle” remains a key component to air superiority. Heck, it even shot down a satellite! We look forward to seeing it continue to live out its incredible legacy as the F-15 continues in production, with new jets to be delivered soon.