McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle
F-15E Strike Eagle
USAF F-15Es of the 4th Operations Group in formation
Role Multirole fighter, strike fighter
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas
Boeing Defense, Space & Security
First flight 11 December 1986
Introduction April 1988
Status Active
Primary users United States Air Force
Royal Saudi Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Republic of Korea Air Force
For other users, see operators
Number built 334+[1]
Unit cost F-15E: US$31.1 million (flyaway cost, 1998)[2]
F-15K: US$100 million (2006)[3]
Developed from McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
Variants Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle is an all-weather multirole fighter, derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic warfare aircraft. United States Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagles can be distinguished from other U.S. Eagle variants by darker camouflage and conformal fuel tanks mounted along the engine intakes.

The Strike Eagle has been deployed in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force and Operation Odyssey Dawn carrying out deep strikes against high-value targets, combat air patrols, and providing close air support for coalition troops. It has also seen action in later conflicts and has been exported to several countries.


F-15E prototype (71-0291) by McDonnell Douglas' plant, 71-0291 itself was the second F-15B

In 1979, McDonnell Douglas and F-15 radar manufacturer, Hughes teamed to privately develop a strike version of the F-15.[4] In March 1981, the USAF announced the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) program to procure a replacement for the F-111 Aardvark. The concept envisioned an aircraft capable of launching deep interdiction missions without requiring additional support by fighter escort or jamming. General Dynamics submitted the F-16XL, while McDonnell Douglas submitted a variant of the F-15 Eagle with two seats. On 24 February 1984, the USAF awarded the ETF contract to McDonnell Douglas' F-15E Strike Eagle.[5] One of the prime reasons the USAF selected the F-15E over the F-16XL was the F-15E's 40% lower development costs. Other reasons were the F-15E's greater room for growth and better survivability with two engines.[6] The Air Force initially planned to purchase 392 F-15Es.[7]

The F-15E's first flight was on 11 December 1986.[5] The first production model of the F-15E was delivered to the USAF in April 1988. Production continued through the 1990s until 2001 with 236 total produced for the Air Force.[8] Variants of the F-15E have been developed for Israel (F-15I), South Korea (F-15K), Saudi Arabia (F-15S), and Singapore (F-15SG).

The F-15E will be upgraded with the Raytheon APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar after 2007, and the first test radar was delivered to Boeing in 2010.[9] It combines the processor of the APG-79 used on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with the antenna of the APG-63(V)3 AESA being fitted on the F-15C.[10] The new radar upgrade is to be part of the F-15E Radar Modernization Program.[11] The new radar was named APG-63(V)4 until it received the APG-82 designation in 2009.[12]

The first production F-15E (86-0183)

While most of the F-15C/Ds are being replaced by the F-22 Raptor, there is no slated replacement for the F-15E in its primary "deep strike" mission profile. The Strike Eagle is a more recent variant of the F-15, and has a sturdier airframe rated for twice the lifetime of earlier variants. The F-15Es are expected to remain in service past 2025.[13] The USAF has pursued the Next-Generation Bomber, a medium bomber concept which could take over the Strike Eagle's "deep strike" profile. The F-35A Lightning II is projected to eventually replace many other attack aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II, may also take over much of the F-15E's role, however the F-15E has better combat range under payload.


The F-15E's deep strike mission is a radical departure from the original intent of the F-15, since the F-15 was designed as an air superiority fighter under the mantra "not a pound for air-to-ground."[14] The basic airframe, however, proved versatile enough to produce a very capable strike fighter. The F-15E, while designed for ground attack, retains the air-to-air lethality of the F-15, and can defend itself against enemy aircraft.[15]

The F-15E prototype was a modification of the two-seat F-15B. The F-15E, despite its origins, includes significant structural changes and much more powerful engines. The back seat is equipped for a Weapon Systems Officer (WSO pronounced 'wizzo') to work the new air-to-ground avionics. The WSO uses multiple screens to display information from the radar, electronic warfare, or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic moving map to navigate. Two hand controls are used to select new displays and to refine targeting information. Displays can be moved from one screen to another, chosen from a menu of display options. Unlike earlier two-place jets (e.g. the F-14 Tomcat and Navy variants of the F-4), whose back seat lacked flying controls, the back seat of the F-15E cockpit is equipped with its own stick and throttle so the WSO can take over flying, albeit with reduced visibility.[16]

An underside view of an F-15E Strike Eagle with landing gear down.

To extend its range, the F-15E is fitted with two conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that hug the fuselage, producing lower drag than conventional underwing/underbelly drop tanks. They carry 750 U.S. gallons (2,800 liters) of fuel, and house six weapons hardpoints in two rows of three in tandem. Unlike conventional drop tanks, CFTs cannot be jettisoned, so the increased range comes at the cost of degraded performance as a result of the additional drag and weight versus a totally "clean" configuration. Similar tanks can be mounted on the F-15C/D and export variants, and the Israeli Air Force does exercise this option on their fighter-variant F-15s as well as their F-15I variant of the Strike Eagle, but the F-15E is the only U.S. variant to be routinely fitted with CFTs.

The Strike Eagle's tactical electronic warfare system (TEWS) integrates all countermeasures on the craft: radar warning receivers (RWR), radar jammer, radar, and chaff/flare dispensers are all tied to the TEWS to provide comprehensive defense against detection and tracking. This system includes an externally mounted ALQ-131 ECM pod which is carried on the centerline pylon on an as needed basis.

An inertial navigation system uses a laser gyroscope to continuously monitor the aircraft's position and provide information to the central computer and other systems, including a digital moving map in both cockpits.

The APG-70 radar system allows air crews to detect ground targets from longer ranges. One feature of this system is that after a sweep of a target area, the crew freezes the air-to-ground map then goes back into air-to-air mode to clear for air threats. During the air-to-surface weapon delivery, the pilot is capable of detecting, targeting and engaging air-to-air targets while the WSO designates the ground target. The APG-70 is to be replaced by the AN/APG-82(v)1 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar (AESA) radar, which will begin flight tests in January 2010 with initial operational capability expected in 2014.[17]

The low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) system, mounted externally under the engine intakes, allows the aircraft to fly at low altitudes, at night and in any weather conditions, to attack ground targets with a variety of precision-guided and unguided weapons. The LANTIRN system gives the F-15E exceptional accuracy in weapons delivery day or night and in poor weather, and consists of two pods attached to the exterior of the aircraft. At night, the video picture from the LANTIRN can be projected on the HUD, producing an infrared image of ground contour.[18]

F-15E cockpit.

The navigation pod contains terrain-following radar which allows the pilot to safely fly at a very low altitude following cues displayed on a heads up display. This system also can be coupled to the aircraft's autopilot to provide "hands off" terrain-following capability. Additionally, the pod contains a forward looking infrared system which is projected on the pilot's HUD which is used during nighttime or low visibility operations. The AN/AAQ-13 Nav Pod is installed beneath the right engine intake.

The targeting pod contains a laser designator and a tracking system that mark an enemy for destruction as far away as 10 mi (16 km). Once tracking has been started, targeting information is automatically handed off to infrared air-to-surface missiles or laser-guided bombs. The targeting pod is mounted beneath the left engine intake; configurations may be either the AN/AAQ-14 Target Pod, AN/AAQ-28 LITENING Target Pod or the AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Pod.

For air-to-ground missions, the F-15E can carry most weapons in the USAF inventory. It also can be armed with AIM-9 Sidewinders, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAMs for self-defense (though the Strike Eagle retains the counter-air capabilities from its Eagle lineage, it is rarely if ever used for counter-air missions). Like the F-15C, the Strike Eagle also carries an internally mounted General Electric M61A1 20 mm cannon with 650 rounds, which is effective against enemy aircraft and "soft" ground targets.

BAE Systems produces the MIDS Fighter Data Link Terminal which improves the situational awareness of Strike Eagle crews though Link 16 sharing of data.[19]

Operational history

United States

The first production F-15E was delivered to the 405th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, in April 1988. The "Strike Eagle", as it was dubbed, received initial operational capability on 30 September 1989 at Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina with the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron.[5]

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

F-15Es parked during Operation Desert Shield.

The F-15E was deployed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The 335th and 336th Tactical Fighter Squadrons were ordered to prepare for deployment one week after the invasion. The 336th began their flight to Seeb Air Base in Oman, a 15 hour flight. Though mission-ready, the F-15Es were not cleared to carry the needed munitions to counter a possible Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia; they were cleared to carry only the 500 lb (230 kg) Mark 82 bomb and 2,000 lb (910 kg) Mark 84 bomb. During training operations in Oman, one F-15E (336th) was lost on 30 September in a mock dogfight, resulting in the deaths of the pilot and WSO. In December the two F-15E squadrons were moved closer to Iraq, and deployed to Al Kharj Air Base in Saudi Arabia.[20]

On 17 January 1991, 24 F-15Es attacked five fixed Scud installations in western Iraq and missions against Scud sites continued through the night with a second strike package consisting of 21 F-15Es. During the war, F-15Es flew hunter missions during the night over western Iraq, searching after mobile SCUD launchers that threatened neighboring countries. By conducting random bombings in suspected areas, F-15E crews hoped to deter the Iraqis from setting up for a Scud launch.[21]

On the opening night of the war an F-15E tracked a MiG-29 and fired a AIM-9 Sidewinder, which failed to hit its target. Several other F-15Es simultaneously tried to engage the lone MiG-29 but were unable to get the kill. One F-15E was actually flying past the Iraqi jet and maneuvered in for the kill but the pilot hesitated to take the shot because he was unsure of his wingmen's location and because he did not get a good tone with the Sidewinder missile. The MiG was eventually brought down by a missile of unknown origin. Another MiG-29 was shot down by his own wingman and an F-15E was close by to yet another MiG-29, but the pilot elected not to engage as there were US Navy F-14s on the way to the area.[22][23]

On the night of 18 January, during a strike against a petrol oil and lubricant plant near Basrah, an F-15E was lost to enemy fire and the pilot and WSO were killed. F-15E crews described this mission as the most difficult and dangerous mission of the war as it was heavily defended by SA-3s, SA-6s, SA-8s and Rolands as well as by anti-aircraft artillery. Two nights later, a second and final F-15E was downed by an Iraqi SA-2; the crew survived and managed to evade capture for several days and were even in contact with two coalition aircraft, but SAR crews were unable to rescue them due to security issues as one of the downed airmen did not properly identify himself on the radio with proper codes. The two airmen were later captured by the Iraqis.[24]

Even though air-to-air kills had eluded the F-15Es, four Strike Eagles destroyed 18 Iraqi jets at Tallil air base using GBU-12s and CBU-87s. On 14 February, however, an F-15E scored its only air-to-air kill: a Mil Mi-24 helicopter. The attack was in response to a request for help by US Special Forces, when five Iraqi helicopters were spotted. The lead F-15E of a formation of two (from the 335th) acquired a helicopter unloading Iraqi soldiers through the FLIR pod and released a GBU-10. After 30 seconds, the F-15E crew thought the bomb had missed its target and the pilot was about to use a Sidewinder missile instead, but suddenly the Hind helicopter was vaporized. The Special Forces team estimated that the Hind was roughly 800 feet (240 m) over the ground when the 2,000 lb (910 kg) bomb hit its target.[25] But the air-to-air kill was not recognized until 2 November 2001. They tried to engage the other helicopters but an allied bombing started around the F-15E so the pilot decided to get out.[22]

A 492 FS F-15E of the 48th Fighter Wing taking off from RAF Lakenheath

F-15E Strike Eagles continued to hunt SCUD missiles during the war and attack heavily defended targets all throughout Iraq. They also conducted secret missions attempting to kill Saddam Hussein, bombing what were believed to be places where the Iraqi president was hiding, but without success. As the ground war was coming closer, F-15Es began tank plinking, attacking Iraqi tanks and armoured personnel carriers in Kuwait.

Following 42 days of heavy combat for the F-15Es, a cease fire came into effect on 1 March 1991. Northern and Southern no-fly zones were quickly established over Iraq to prevent Iraqi aircraft from posing a threat to the Coalition. Despite this, Iraqi helicopters struck Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq. The F-15Es enforcing the no-fly zone watched helplessly as 600 civilians in the village of Chamchamal were attacked by helicopters. Since the F-15Es were not allowed to open fire, the aircraft made high speed passes as close as they dared in the hope that their wake turbulence would snap a rotor blade. They also fired their lasers into the cockpits of the Iraqi helicopters with intention of blinding the pilots. The latter technique was ineffective but the former did cause one Hind to crash. Soon USAF leadership became aware of these activities and ordered F-15Es not to fly below 10,000 feet (3,000 m). F-15Es flew in support of Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Provide Comfort II.[26]

Operations Southern Watch and Northern Watch

An F-15E over Iraq in 1999 for Operation Northern Watch.

Following Desert Storm two no-fly zones were set up over Iraq and were policed mainly by US and UK aircraft. F-15Es from 494th Fighter Squadron deployed to Turkey in 1993, 1994 and 1997. The 492d Fighter Squadron deployed in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The 391st FS deployed later the same year. F-15Es would fly into combat over the next decade on numerous occasions. In January 1993, a small package hit Iraqi targets that broke the rule of the ceasefire agreement below the 32nd parallel north, an SA-3 was targeted. A few days later, ten F-15Es took part in another punitive strike.[27] Most of the time missions flown in support of OSW and ONW were defensive; as the Strike Eagles could carry a lot of weapons of various types into a mission, it gave the F-15 crews a lot of flexibility. The F-15Es operated under the close supervision of AWACS and crews could receive airborne taskings and could fly unplanned attacks against Iraqi targets.[28]

During the next three years, violations of the no-fly zones were minimal as Iraq slightly withdrew its forces, and in 1997 Turkey approved the creation of ONW and permitted US forces to use the Incirlik air base. In December 1998, Operation Desert Fox was conducted because Iraq refused UNSCOM inspections. On 28 December 1998, three F-15Es each dropped two GBU-12 500-pound precision-guided munitions (PGMs). Two of the F-15Es hit an SA-3 target site tracking radar and optical guidance unit. The other F-15E had one bomb hit the SA-3 missile site command and control van, and the other hit the target site tracking radar and optical guidance unit. The other F-15E in the four-ship formation did not drop any bombs because it lacked positive target identification.[29]

After Desert Fox, Iraq stepped up its violations of the no-fly zones and a lot of retaliatory and pre-planned strikes were conducted by F-15Es. In ONW alone, weapons were expended on at least 105 days.[30] Between 24 and 26 January 1999, F-15Es expended several AGM-130s and GBU-12s against SAM sites in northern Iraq near Mosul.[31] F-15Es were the most highly-tasked of all USAF tactical fighters in the region, particularly due to their extended range and payload compared to the F-16s. F-15Es usually attacked ammunition bunkers, command and control facilities, towed 100 mm KS-19 anti-aircraft batteries, and SA-3/6 launchers. F-15Es would also fly combat air patrols over Iraq and also co-operated with other aircraft in strikes, such as USN F-14s, F/A-18s, EA-6Bs, USAF F-16s and RAF Tornado GR4s.[citation needed]

Operations Deny Flight and Allied Force

F-15E Strike Eagle takes off from Aviano Air Base, Italy, for an air strike mission in support of NATO Operation Allied Force on 28 March 1999.

Operation Deny Flight was a United Nations enforced no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina as the situation in the Balkans had deteriorated over many years. In August 1993, after a UN Security Council resolution that banned all fixed and rotary wing aircraft unless authorized by the UN, F-15E’s from 492d and 494th FS deployed to Aviano in Italy. By late 1993, the situation had worsened and NATO ordered a limited F-15E strike against Serbian targets in Croatia, targeting the Udbina airfield. Eight F-15Es armed with GBU-12s were to attack an SA-6 as part of a 30-aircraft strike package. The mission was cancelled in mid-flight as the F-15Es could not prosecute the attack due to stringent Rules of Engagement.[32] In December the same year F-15Es were launched to destroy a pair of SA-2 sites which had opened fire on two Royal Navy Sea Harrier FRS 1s.[33] Most missions flown by the Strike Eagles were non-combat sorties, but they were fired upon quite often. In August 1995, 90th Fighter Squadron joined the two other F-15E squadrons. The 492d and 494th had flown over 2500 sorties since Deny Flight had begun, and 2000 of these were credited to 492d as they had been deployed longer than 494th. On 30 and 31 August in support of NATO's Operation Deliberate Force, strikes were carried out with GBU-10s and GBU-12s, F-15Es struck Serbian armor and supplies around Sarajevo. On 5 September more GBU-12s were dropped and four days later a GBU-15 were dropped for the first time from a Strike Eagle, and in the end nine were dropped against air defense targets and Bosnian-Serb ground forces around Banja Luka.[33]

Following the displacement of Kosovars and the government of Serbia rejecting a NATO ultimatum, Operation Allied Force was launched in March 1999. 26 F-15Es from the 492d and 494th FS in-theater concentrated the first strikes of the war against Serb surface-to-air-missile sites, anti-aircraft batteries and Early Warning radar stations.[34] These Strike Eagles were deployed to Aviano as well as Lakenheath in Great Britain, the only Strike Eagle units in the USAF to conduct Close Air Support missions, which was a new idea in the late 1990s but is now conducted by the entire air force (F-15Es, F-16s and A-10s).[35] Most missions would last around 7.5 hours and included two aerial refuellings and F-15Es would carry a mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions so they could fly both a Combat Air Patrols and then drop bombs on targets before returning home.[35]

The largest threats to NATO aircraft were the Serb's mobile SAM launchers. F-15E crews were very vigilant towards this threat as several aircraft had been lost in the past, most notably the F-117 Nighthawk that was shot down during the war. When the threat was too great, or specific weapon effects were required, the AGM-130 was used to provide stand-off distance to the target.[36] It was successfully used against two MiG-29s on the ground. The AGM-130 is a very expensive weapon and was only used against specific targets or when crews wanted to control their weapon in the flight to achieve maximum efficiency against targets. The WSO can steer the weapon to the target, or even abort and steer the weapon in to the ground far away from civilians if a target is too close to civilian areas such as churches. It was off-limits for NATO crews to attack targets around such buildings. It was an F-15E armed with an AGM-130 that struck a bridge just as a passenger train crossed, resulting in the loss of 14 civilian lives. In June 1999 Slobodan Milosevic ordered withdrawal from Kosovo.

Operation Enduring Freedom

An F-15E Strike Eagle flies over Afghanistan in support of Operation Mountain Lion in 2006.

Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, 391st Fighter Squadron left for Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait 31 days later. The unit had been scheduled to participate in Operation Southern Watch, but now they were going to support Operation Enduring Freedom. During the first attacks the F-15Es met little resistance, and for the first night's military buildings, Taliban supply depots, caves and al-Qaeda training camps were the main targets. Both the AGM-130 and GBU-15 2,000 lb (910 kg) bombs were expended, and this was the first combat experience with the GBU-15.[37] GBU-24s and GBU-28s were used against reinforced targets, command and control centrers and cave entrances. F-15Es would often operate as two-ship flights alongside two-ship F-16Cs. Within weeks almost all targets had been destroyed and it was hard to find meaningful targets. The Taliban had access to SA-7 and FIM-92 Stinger portable surface-to-air missiles which posed no threat towards US aircraft as long as they flew above 7,000 feet (2,100 m), and the fixed SAM sites near such cities as Mazar-I-Sharif and Bagram were struck very early in the campaign, so it was a very "low-threat" environment.[38]

Within three weeks, aircraft began to fly on-call support missions for allied ground forces where F-15Es usually carried MK-82 and GBU-12 bombs, but also other weapons were carried, and during one mission a GBU-28, two GBU-24s and six GBU-12s were released.[38] The most frequent targets during the rest of the war were people, vehicles and convoys, and not only bombs were expended, on several occasions F-15Es used the internal gun as well.[39] During the course of the three-month deployment in support of OEF, four 391st crews conducted the longest fighter mission in history; it lasted 15.5 hours and nine of those were spent over the target area. Two F-15Es attacked two Taliban command and control facilities, two buildings suspected to shelter Taliban fighters, and a Taliban road block. The F-15Es refueled 12 times during the mission.[40] On 7 January 2002 the 391st FS returned home and 335th FS took over, the 391st FS had flown two to eight sorties a day during their deployment. The 391st would highlight their deployment by expending the BLU-118/B for the first time in combat; it was used to flush out Taliban fighters hiding in caves.

An F-15E from the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron launches heat decoys during a close-air-support mission over Afghanistan, December 2008.

The other highlight of the deployment occurred on 4 March when a section of F-15Es supported what would be known as the Battle of Roberts’ Ridge. The F-15Es first flew an on-call Close Air Support mission for "Texas 14" on the ground by destroying a Taliban observation position. 16 minutes later, at 0141 hours, "Mako 30" had come under mortar fire and the F-15Es rushed to the location. It was soon learned that the soldier in contact with the F-15Es was not a Forward Air Controller. It was later learned that the soldier was a Navy SEAL, and part of a team searching for an MH-47E Chinook following an ambushed insertion point in the Shah-i-Kot Valley.[41] Nonetheless, the F-15Es dropped a GBU-12, but the SEAL team was still taking fire as they moved east with two wounded and one Killed In Action. A second bomb was dropped, but due to the wrong coordinates being entered into the Strike Eagle's computer the weapon missed.[41] During the effort to support the SEAL Team a MH-47 carrying a rescue team was downed by an RPG.[42]

335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-15E's drop JDAMs on an insurgent cave

During all this, the F-15Es had just finished refueling and were instructed to work with "Texas 14", a third team on the ridge. The F-15Es dropped eleven GBU-12s between 0252 and 0303 hours to aid the forces on the ground. Soon the F-15Es had to support the survivors from the downed MH-47 that had enemy contact some 75 meters from their position. The Strike Eagles could not use bombs, so they went with guns; they used the downed helicopters as a reference point and started to make gun passes.[42] One Strike Eagle had to get back to the tanker, and the lone F-15E talked to AWACS to get some other aircraft to this location to strafe as well. A section of F-16s from 18th Fighter Squadron arrived and made some passes as well. It was soon decided that they had to drop bombs, as both the Strike Eagles and the Falcons had run out of ammunition. The F-15Es by now had been instructed by AWACS to return home, but they could support the forces and then return immediately after that. After some problems with radios and weapons that failed to drop, the F-15Es eventually each dropped a GBU-12 and requested to drop the remaining bombs, but were ordered to return to Al Jaber in Kuwait.[43]

A friendly fire incident took place on 23 August 2007 when an F-15E, called in for close air support north west of Kajaki, Afghanistan, mistakenly dropped a 500 lb (230 kg) bomb on British forces, killing three soldiers.[44] Confusion between the air controller and the F-15E air crew on the bombing coordinates led to the incident.[45]

On the 13 September 2009, an F-15E used an AIM-9 Sidewinder to shoot down an MQ-9 Reaper over Northern Afghanistan. Operators had, for some unknown reason, lost control of the Reaper, and a Strike Eagle was dispatched to ensure that the drone did not leave Afghanistan.[46]

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Wingtip vortices are visible upon a F-15E as it disengages from refueling with a KC-10 during Operation Iraqi Freedom

In late 2002, tension over suspected Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was growing, and so the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB was ordered to have at least one squadron ready to deploy to the Persian Gulf. The 336th was selected to deploy first, to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. During 11–17 January 2003, 24 aircraft deployed to the air base and preparations began which involved a briefing by planners from the Combined Air Operations Center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. The 336th was grounded for some time until 27 January when the governments of the United States and Qatar concluded their diplomatic problems and permissions to fly was finally given.[47] The F-15Es began flying missions in support of Operation Southern Watch, mostly surveillance and reconnaissance missions as well simulated missions against potential targets in Iraq, and if needed they could attack them as well, as well as familiarize themselves with Rules of Engagements, local area procedures, working with AWACS and flying over hostile territory.[47] During OSW F-15Es attacked targets mostly in southern and western Iraq, radars, radio relay stations, communications, command and control sites, and air defences were targeted. On one night four F-15Es fired multiple GBU-24s at the Iraqi Republican Guard/Baath Party HQ in Basrah while another flight of four destroyed a nearby Air Defense Sector HQ with six GBU-10s.[48]

Towards the end of February the 336th received additional aircrews and the units consisted of 150 pilots and WSOs, many of them were drafted from the two non-deployable fighter squadrons at Seymour Johnson (the 333d and 334th Fighter Squadrons) and 391st Fighter Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base, this meant that there were four aircrews per F-15E.[48] In early March the 335th Fighter Squadron's personnel and aircraft were deployed and joined the 336th at Al Udeid. One objective at the end of OSW was to take down Iraq's air defenses and Early Warning radar network near the border to Jordan so F-16s and Special Forces helicopters could operate from out of Jordan when the war started. Several radar sites and radio relay stations were hit in western Iraq near the "H3" airfield, during these missions coalition jets were greeted by heavy anti-aircraft artillery.[49]

Rear view of the F-15E

At the same time as F-117 Nighthawks dropped bombs over Baghdad on 19 March, on a house where Saddam Hussein was believed to be; F-15Es dropped GBU-28s around the H3 airfield while other F-15Es conducted strikes part of OSW. On 20 March, when the war had effectively begun, F-15Es dropped AGM-130s against key communication, command and control buildings, and leadership targets in Baghdad; a few of the weapons missed intended targets, possibly having been affected by jamming operations from EA-6B Prowlers in the vicinity.[50] Veteran-crewed F-15Es would work closely with Special Forces operating inside Iraq, such mission details are classified. F-15Es would typically circle around an area and the Special Forces directed them to attack ground targets. On more than one occasion, strafing runs using the aircraft's guns to hit threats towards the Special Forces teams were conducted, because the targets were too close for bombs to be used.

A USAF F-15E on an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat sortie, April 2004.

On 3 April 2003 a F-15E pilot mistook a M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) for an Iraqi surface-to-air missile site and dropped a 500 lb (230 kg) laser guided bomb, killing three and wounding five others.[51] On 6 April 2003 an F-15E (88-1694), crewed by Captain Eric Das and Major William Watkins performed a critical interdiction mission in support of special forces.[52] On the following day, Das and Watkins crashed while bombing targets around Tikrit.[53] The crew were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for their actions.[52]

During the war, F-15Es were credited with destroying 60% of the total force of the Iraqi Medina Republican Guard. They also scored hits on 65 MiGs on the ground,[49] and destroyed key air defense and command buildings in Baghdad. During the war F-15Es worked closely with other jets that were deployed to Al Udeid, including RAAF F/A-18s, USAF F-16s and F-117s, RAF Panavia Tornado fighters and a detachment of US Navy F-14s from VF-154. Many aircraft used the F-15E to locate, identify and hand-off targets to them, including B-1Bs, B-52s, Navy/Marine Corps F/A-18, AV-8Bs and F-14s.

Operation Odyssey Dawn

Following the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 on 17 March 2011, 10 USAF F-15E fighters, and a variety of other US aircraft were deployed to enforce the Libyan no-fly zone as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn. On 21 March 2011, an F-15E Strike Eagle 91-304 crashed in Libya, near Bengazi.[54] Both crew members parachuted into territory held by resistance elements of the Libyan population and were eventually rescued by US Marines. An equipment malfunction is the reason stated for the crash.[55][56][57]


The F-15I is operated by the Israeli Defence Force/Air Force No 69 Squadron, which had previously operated the F-4 Phantom II. The first F-15I combat mission was flown in Lebanon on 11 January 1999. The aircraft can carry: the AIM-9L, Rafael Python 4 and the Rafael Python 5 infrared-homing missiles; and the AIM-7 Sparrow and the AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missiles. The Python 4 can be launched at up to 90 degrees off boresight, with the pilot aiming using the helmet-mounted sight. For BVR engagements, it can use either the AIM-7 or the AIM-120.

In 1999, Israel announced its intention to procure more fighter aircraft, and the F-15I was a possible contender. However, it was announced that the contract would go to the F-16I, a specialized version of the Fighting Falcon.

Israeli F-15Is carry the APG-70I radar with one third the resolution of the American system.[58]

Saudi Arabia

Starting from the first week of November 2009, Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s, along with Saudi Tornados, performed air raids against Yemeni Houthis insurgents in the northern Yemeni region of Sa'dah. This was the first time since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 that the Saudi Air Force took part in a military operation over hostile territory.[59]

Saudi Arabia requested 84 F-15SA aircraft, upgrade of its F-15S fleet to F-15SA standard, and related equipment and weapons through a Foreign Military Sale in October 2010.[60] The F-15SA (Saudi Advanced) variant includes the APG-63(v)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, digital electronic warfare systems (DEWS), infrared search and track (IRST) systems, and other advanced systems.[60][61]



Two-seat all-weather long-range strike and ground-attack aircraft for the USAF. A total of 236 were built from 1985 to 2001.[8][62]


An Israeli Air Force F-15I (Ra'am) from the No 69 Hammers Squadron maneuvers away after receiving fuel from a KC-135 during Red Flag 2004.

The F-15I is operated by the Israeli Air Force where it is known as the Ra'am (רעם – "Thunder"). It is a dual-seat ground attack aircraft powered by two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engines, and is based on the F-15E.

After the Gulf War in 1991, in which Israeli towns were attacked by SCUD missiles based in Iraq, the Israeli government decided that it needed a long range strike aircraft and issued a Request for Information (RFI). In response, Lockheed Martin offered a version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, while McDonnell Douglas offered both the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-15E. On 27 January 1994, the Israeli government announced that the intention to purchase 21 modified F-15Es, designated F-15I. On 12 May 1994, the US Government authorized the purchase of up to 25 F-15Is by Israel. In November 1995, Israel ordered 4 extra F-15Is, thus 25 were built from 1996 to 1998.[62]

The F-15I Ra'am is similar to the F-15E, however the F-15I has some avionic systems specifically to meet Israeli requirements. To facilitate night-time strikes, the F-15Is were initially fitted with Sharpshooter targeting pods designed for Israeli F-16s. The Sharpshooter pod was less capable than the LANTIRN pods used on USAF F-15Es, the United States later allowed Israel to buy LANTIRNs instead, 30 LANTIRN pods were eventually delivered. The F-15Is, as delivered, did not have any Radar Warning Receivers, thus Israel installed its own electronic warfare equipment, the Elisra SPS-2110. A central computer and embedded GPS/INS system have also been fitted. All of the aircraft's sensors can be slaved to the Display And Sight Helmet (DASH) helmet-mounted sight, giving both crew members an entire means of targeting which the F-15E lacks. The F-15I uses the APG-70 radar; using the radar's terrain mapping capability, it is possible to locate targets that are otherwise difficult to spot—e.g., missile batteries, tanks and structures—even in adverse conditions such as complete fog cover or heavy rain. The radar can detect large airliner-sized targets at 150 nautical miles, and fighter-sized targets at 56 nautical miles.[63]


F-15K lands at Nellis AFB, Nevada, on 5 August 2008 to participate in Red Flag 08-4.

The F-15K Slam Eagle (Korean: F-15K 슬램 이글) is an advanced derivative of the F-15E, operated by the Republic of Korea Air Force. Several major components for the aircraft were outsourced by Boeing to various Korean companies for local production as part of an offset agreement, wherein Korea will be responsible for 40% of production and 25% of assembly and subassembly of the Slam Eagles.[64] Fuselage and wings are supplied by Korea Aerospace Industries,[65] flight control actuator by Hanwha Corporation,[66] electronic jammer and radar warning receiver by Samsung Thales,[67][68] Head-up display, airborne communication system, and radar by LIG Nex1,[69][70][71] and engines by Samsung Techwin under license[72] before final assembly by Boeing at its St. Louis main facility.

In 2002, ROKAF selected the F-15K for its F-X fighter program, during which the Boeing F-15K, the Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Sukhoi Su-35 were evaluated. A total 40 aircraft were ordered with deliveries beginning in 2005.[73] On 25 April 2008, the Korean government announced the order of second batch of 21 F-15Ks, worth 2.3 trillion Korean won (US$ 2.3 billion). The delivery is scheduled between 2010 and 2012. Aircraft of second batch differs from the first batch in having Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 (EEP) engines for commonality with the KF-16 fleet; forty-six engines are being license-procuded by Samsung Techwin.[74][75] Republic of Korea Air Force has received 50 F-15Ks by June 2011.[76]

The F-15K variant has several features not typically found on F-15Es, such as an AAS-42 Infra-red search and track,[77] a customized Tactical Electronics Warfare Suite to reduce weight and increase jamming effectiveness,[77] cockpit compatibility with night vision device, ARC-232 U/VHF radio with Fighter Data Link system, and advanced APG-63(V)1 mechanical scanned array radar with NCTR capabilities. The APG-63(V)1 radar has a common digital processing back-end with the APG-63(V)3 AESA radar, and could be quickly upgraded to an AESA radar by replacing the mechanically scanning antenna with an AESA antenna.[63] The F-15K is equipped with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System.[77] Weapons such as AGM-84K SLAM-ER ATA, AGM-84H Harpoon Block II, and JASSM have been integrated.[78] Two General Electric F110-GE-129 29,400 lbf (131 kN) engines power the F-15K, delivering increased thrust over the base F-15E.


The F-15S is a variant of the F-15E supplied to the Royal Saudi Air Force in the mid to late 1990s. Saudi Arabia had previously wanted the F-15F, a proposed single-seat Strike Eagle. Saudi Arabia sought to order 24 F-15Fs, but was blocked by U.S. Congress.[79] The F-15S is almost identical to the USAF F-15E and the only major difference in the AN/APG-70 radar performance is the synthetic aperture mode.[62] The version was initially referred to as F-15XP.[79] 72 were built from 1996 to 1998.[62] In October 2007, GE announced a contract with Saudi Arabia for 65 GE F110-GE-129C engines for the F-15S in a contract worth over US$300 million.[80]


The F-15SG (formerly the F-15T) is a variant of the F-15E, currently ordered by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) after a seven-year evaluation period involving five other fighter aircraft under consideration. The F-15SG was chosen on 6 September 2005 over the Dassault Rafale, the only remaining aircraft still in contention.[81]

The F-15SG is similar in configuration to the F-15K sold to South Korea, but differs in the addition of the APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar developed by Raytheon. The F-15SG will be powered by two General Electric F110-GE-129 29,400 lbf (131 kN) thrust engines.

Pending news on the progress of the F-35 program, the RSAF placed an order of 12 aircraft with an option for 8 more to replace its A-4SUs. The purchase is part of the New Fighter Replacement Program, worth about US$1 billion, which will be the most expensive single fighter aircraft purchase by the RSAF.

On 22 August 2005, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified US Congress about a potential Foreign military sales (FMS) of weapons, logistics and training in the event that the Boeing F-15 was selected by Singapore. Since the F-15 purchase has now been confirmed, it can be assumed that Singapore will follow up on this proposed weapons and logistics package, worth a further US$741 million if all options are exercised. Various weapons and hardware are included in this package such as AIM-120C, and AIM-9X missiles; GBU-38 JDAM, and AGM-154 JSOW air-to-surface weapons; Night Vision Goggles and Link 16 terminals.[82]

The Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) on 22 October 2007, exercised the option to purchase eight more F-15SG fighters which was part of the original contract signed in 2005. Along with this buy, an additional order of four F-15SGs increases total to 24 fighters on order.[83] The first F-15SG was rolled out on 3 November 2008. Deliveries of F-15SGs began in second quarter of 2009 and will continue to 2012.[84]

In July 2010, at least 12 have been delivered – 6 of which traveled to its home base in Singapore, while the others are with the long-term training detachment at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

Proposed variants

F-15H Strike Eagle (H for Hellas) was a 1990s proposed export version of F-15E for Greece, which was selected by the Greek Ministry of Defence and the Greek Air Force,[85] but the government chose new F-16s and Mirage 2000-5s instead.[86]

F-15G Wild Weasel was a proposed two-seat version to replace the F-4G Wild Weasel in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) role. The F-15G was studied in 1986. A proposed modification to F-15Cs for the SEAD role was studied in 1994–95, but F-16Cs were modified to perform this role instead.[87]

F-15SE Silent Eagle is a further developed version of the F-15E by Boeing using fifth generation fighter features, such as internal weapons carriage and radar-absorbent material.[88]


Current operators of the F-15 in light blue, F-15E Strike Eagle in red, both in dark blue
F-15Es from the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxi to their parking spots on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam during exercise Valiant Shield 2006.
An F-15E Strike Eagle breaking away from a tanker.
 South Korea
  • Republic of Korea Air Force has received 40 (including 1 lost in accident) of total 61 F-15K "Slam Eagle" on order as of October 2008.[89]
    • 11th Fighter Wing (제11전투비행단), based at Daegu
      • 102nd Fighter Squadron
      • 122nd Fighter Squadron
 Saudi Arabia
  • Royal Saudi Air Force operates 72 F-15S and has requested another 72.[90][91]
    • No. 3 Wing RSAF – King Abdullah Aziz Air Base
      • No. 92 Squadron RSAF
    • No. 5 Wing RSAF – King Khalid Air Base
      • No. 6 Squadron RSAF
      • No. 55 Squadron RSAF
 United States

Accidents and losses

Specifications (F-15E)

F-15E deploys flares during a flight over Afghanistan, 12 Nov. 2008

Data from USAF fact sheet,[2] Davies[96]

General characteristics


An F-15E undergoing maintenance showing the M61 Vulcan Gatling gun with its cover removed.
A F-15E releasing a GBU-28 "Bunker Buster" during a test.


LANTIRN pods mounted underneath an F-15E Strike Eagle, the AN/AAQ-13 navigation pod to the left with the AN/AAQ-14 targeting pod to the right


See also

  • 4th generation jet fighter
Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


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