Fighter spotters at the RAF Lakenheath in England witnessed a US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle encounter a dramatic incident during takeoff from its base.
Peculiarly, the aircrew was totally unaware of this incident and continued to conduct their exercise. The sequence of shots that were taken of the US F-15E show that there was probable damage to the “turkey feather” which makes up the jet’s right-side exhaust nozzle.
According to the flight tracking data obtained from ADS-B Exchange, the jet took off approximately at 9.02 am local time on July 13 before it headed out towards the North Sea coast. The fighter jet did not return to the airfield till around 10.56 am.
“From what I heard the pilot reported no issues with handing etcetera and stayed out for a while; we were expecting him to return to base, but he didn’t,” aviation photographer Matt Smart told The War Zone. “I understand that someone also phoned the base about it to make them aware”, he added.
According to reports, a trail of sparks emitted from the F-15E’s right-side Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan was caused by a broken nozzle petal and actuator. In a routine operation, the nozzle petals are regulated by the actuator. It increases the diameter of the exhaust when the afterburner is engaged. This increases the thrust output excessively.
Even though the takeoff did not go as planned, there was no sudden cause of alarm for the aircrew of the F-15E, serial number 91-0302. This jet has been assigned to 492nd Fighter Squadron, the “Madhatters”, which is a part of Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing.
— Matt Smart (@MattSmartie999) July 13, 2021
The parent wing includes the 493rd Fighter Squadron, the “Grim Reapers”, which is equipped with the F-15C/D, along with the 494th Fighter Squadron, “Panthers”, which are also assigned with the F-15E. The base is also going to host the Air Force’s first overseas-based F-35A unit, the 495thFighter Squadron, known as the “Valkyries”, The War Zone reported.
Reports suggest the US Air Force could move from the most-expensive F-35 fighters to the “much more reliable” F-15EX jets. Developed by American aerospace giant Boeing, the F-15EX is the most advanced variant of the F-15 Eagle twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter jet.
The new fighter, which uses the frame of the classic F-15 and bears a resemblance to the Su-30 MKI in terms of its size, can fulfill a host of missions that include homeland and air base defense, no-fly zone enforcement against limited or no air defense systems, and deploying standoff munitions.
It is reported that multiple partner nations of the US that had promised to buy the F-35s, are now shifting their orders to the F-15EX fighter jets and there is no reason to believe why India should not follow suit by purchasing the F-15EXs instead of the F-35s.
Unlike the F-35 fighters, the F-15EX fighters have already been offered by Boeing to India. This ensures that the transition process of the fighter or a potential deal between the US and Indian governments would be a lot smoother than that of the F-35 fighter.
It’s worth mentioning that Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for business development, J.R. McDonald, had indicated in September 2020 that countries like India were not yet ready for the F-35. Given this uncertainty and the proven combat capabilities of F-15EX jets, India would do well to opt for Boeing fighters and strengthen its fighter fleet on a priority basis.
Written by Kashish Tandon