This month, the US will mark the 50th anniversary of one of its most advanced air superiority aircraft, the F-15, with special events planned all across the nation.
The F-15 Eagle, also called the MiG Killer, is an all-weather tactical fighter that is incredibly maneuverable and was developed to permit the Air Force to establish and maintain air superiority over the battlefield.
The Cold War saw the development of the F-15 after the Air Force emphasized the need for a plane that could evade detection as air defense systems continued to advance. On July 27, 1972, the F-15 Eagle made its first test flight, and on January 9, 1976, it was formally put into service.
The platform’s capabilities have since been demonstrated, leading to the development of the F-15E Strike Eagle, a modified version designed to excel in air-to-ground combat, and the F-15EX Eagle II, an updated version of the classic F-15 Eagle.
To mark the 50th birthday of this aircraft, a celebration will take place on July 27 at the Boeing plant in St. Louis, where all F-15s were and are still being produced, according to a statement issued by the Air Force on July 15.
The next day, on July 28, there will be a static display at Wright-Patterson and a celebration for the program office personnel. Cesar Rodriguez, a retired colonel who has shot down more MiGs than anyone else since the Vietnam War, will also be present at the event.
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On July 29, the F-15 Expo and an Eagles banquet gathering will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
The Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB in Georgia will finally host a festival on August 5 that includes a cake ceremony, scavenger hunt, and community events honoring the F-15.
These events marked a half-century of impeccable air dominance operations of the fighter that has never been shot down in battle. A then-McDonnell-Douglas team designed the F-15 in the late 1960s to make a revolutionary leap forward.
“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,” Greg (Sherlock) Watson, who is an IPT lead for the F-15 Division at Wright-Patterson AFB said.
“We could fly further, and we could fly faster. We could fly longer than any other fighter out there,” Watson said.
According to Craig (BJ) Hunnicutt, a program manager for the F-15 Division at Robins AFB, the jet has been both revolutionary and evolutionary, citing the change from analog to digital computers, the switch from dials and knobs to touch screens, and the addition of GPS as examples.
Why F-15 Fighters Also Known As “MiG Killers”
The Eagle has earned its reputation as the champion of the skies across numerous conflicts and under different Air Forces, amassing a reported record of 104 combat victories and zero losses.
Although a few opposing forces claim to have shot down an F-15, no one has ever been able to produce any supporting evidence.
The term “MiG Killers” originated during the Korean War when American P-80 Shooting Stars and F-86 Sabres destroyed countless MiG aircraft. The word was used again during the Gulf War when USAF F-15 units established air superiority from the beginning of the conflict.
At the time, the F-15s shot down many MiGs, contributing to its becoming well-known on the battlefield. The aircraft, however, has a history that spans its development process and numerous battlegrounds.
In the Korean war, P-51 Mustang and F-86 Sabre pilots had impressive 13:1 kill ratios when they left the battle. The situation was different in Vietnam, though. The assumption used in the design of fighters of that era was that dogfighting was no longer necessary due to the increased range of air-to-air missiles.
The Air Force recognized the need for an aircraft with air superiority capabilities for future conflicts. The F-15 was then designed and developed as a result of these requirements.
In June 1979, an Israeli Air Force F-15A shot down a Syrian MiG-21, marking the first air-to-air victory for McDonnell Douglas’ efforts to field a capable air superiority fighter. The USAF has also recorded impressive feats with this aircraft.
Since the Vietnam War, Cesar Rodriguez, a former USAF officer, has shot down more MiGs than anyone else. Rodriguez’s first two kills were against an Iraqi Air Force Mikoyan MiG-29 and a Mikoyan MiG-23 in 1991, during the first Gulf War.
During the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, he scored his third kill against a MiG-29 of the Yugoslav air force.
The impressive winning streak of the F-15 was extended over the ensuing years by Israeli, Saudi, and American pilots, who amassed 104 victories in air-to-air combat without losing a single Eagle to hostile fighters.
The list of fighters that F-15s have shot down includes a variety of MiG models, Mirage F-1 aircraft, a transport aircraft, and an Iraqi attack helicopter. Even though the aircraft is approaching its 50th birthday, it is still among the most sophisticated and has the air superiority capabilities to rule the battlefield.