Tag Archives: Air Combat

14 February 1991

McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle 89-0487 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, U.S.Air Force.)
McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle 89-0487 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, U.S.Air Force.)

14 February 1991: An unusual incident occurred during Desert Storm, when Captains Tim Bennett and Dan Bakke, United States Air Force, flying the airplane in the above photograph, McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle, 89-0487, used a 2,000-pound (907.2 kilogram) GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bomb to “shoot down” an Iraqi Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter. This airplane is still in service with the Air Force, and on 13 January 2012 became the first F-15E to have logged over 10,000 flight hours.

Captain Bennett (Pilot) and Captain Bakke (Weapons Systems Officer) were leading a two-ship flight on a anti-Scud missile patrol, waiting for a target to be assigned by their Boeing E-3 AWACS controller. 89-0487 was armed with four laser-guided GBU-10 bombs and four AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles. Their wingman was carrying 12 Mk. 82 500 pound (227 kilogram) bombs.

The AWACS controller called Bennett’s flight and told them that a Special Forces team on the ground searching for Scud launching sites had been located by Iraqi forces and was in need of help. They headed in from 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) away, descending though 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) of clouds as the went. They came out of the clouds at 2,500 feet (762 meters), 15–20 miles (24.1– 32.2 kilometers) from the Special Forces team. With the Strike Eagle’s infrared targeting pod they picked up five helicopters and identified them as enemy Mi-24s. It appeared that the helicopters were trying to drive the U.S. soldiers into a waiting Iraqi blocking force.

Iraqi Army Aviation Mil Mi-24 Hind (helis.com)
Iraqi Army Aviation Mil Mi-24 Hind (helis.com)

Their Strike Eagle was inbound at 600 knots (1,111.2 kilometers per hour) and both the FLIR (infrared) targeting pod and search radar were locked on to the Iraqi helicopters. Dan Bakke aimed the laser targeting designator at the lead helicopter preparing to drop a GBU-10 while Tim Bennett was getting a Sidewinder missile ready to fire. At four miles (6.44 kilometers) they released the GBU-10. At this time, the helicopter, which had been either on the ground or in a hover, began to accelerate and climb. The Eagle’s radar showed the helicopter’s ground speed at 100 knots. Bakke struggled to keep the laser designator on the fast-moving target. Bennett was about to fire the Sidewinder at the helicopter when the 2,000-pound (907.2 kilogram) bomb hit and detonated. The helicopter ceased to exist. The other four helicopters scattered. Soon after, additional fighter bombers arrived to defend the U.S. Special Forces team. They were later extracted and were able to confirm the Strike Eagle’s kill.

A Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot checks a GBU-10 Paveway II 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb on an F-18 Hornet. This is the same type of bomb used by Captains and Bakke to destroy an Iraqi Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter.(RAAF)
A Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot checks a GBU-10 Paveway II 2,000-pound (907.2 kilogram) laser-guided bomb on an F-18 Hornet. This is the same type of bomb used by Captains Bennett and Bakke to destroy an Iraqi Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter. (RAAF)
Mission count for the 10,000+ flight hours of F-15E 89-0487. (U.S. Air Force)
Mission count for the 10,000+ flight hours of F-15E 89-0487. The green star indicates the Iraqi Mi-24 helicopter destroyed 14 February 1991. (U.S. Air Force)

The Strike Eagle was begun as a private venture by McDonnell Douglas. Designed to be operated by a pilot and a weapons system officer (WSO), the airplane can carry bombs, missiles and guns for a ground attack role, while maintaining its capability as an air superiority fighter. It’s airframe was a strengthened and its service life doubled to 16,000 flight hours. The Strike Eagle became an Air Force project in March 1981, and  went into production as the F-15E. The first production model, 86-0183, made its first flight 11 December 1986.

The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-place twin-engine multi-role fighter. It is 63 feet, 9 inches (19.431 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¾ inches (13.049 meters) and height of 18 feet, 5½ inches (5.626 meters). It weighs 31,700 pounds (14,379 kilograms) empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 81,000 pounds (36,741 kilograms). The F-15E is powered by two Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engines which produce 17,800 pounds of thrust (79.178 kilonewtons) each, or 29,100 pounds (129.443 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The Strike Eagle has a maximum speed of Mach 2.54 (1,676 miles per hour, (2,697 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and is capable of sustained speed at Mach 2.3 (1,520 miles per hour, 2,446 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). The fighter-bomber has a combat radius of 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) and a maximum ferry range of 2,765 miles (4,450 kilometers).

Though optimized as a fighter-bomber, the F-15E Strike Eagle retains an air-to-air combat capability. The F-15E is armed with one 20mm M61A1 Vulcan 6-barrel rotary cannon with 512 rounds of ammunition, and can carry four AIM-9M Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles and four AIM-7M Sparrow radar-guided missiles, or a combination of Sidewinders, Sparrows and AIM-120 AMRAAM long range missiles. It can carry a maximum load of 24,500 pounds (11,113 kilograms) of bombs and missiles for ground attack.

A McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle over Iraq during Operation Northern Watch, 1999. (U.S. Air Force)
A McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle over Iraq during Operation Northern Watch, 1999. (U.S. Air Force)

The Mil Mi-24 (NATO reporting name “Hind”) is a large, heavily-armed attack helicopter that can also carry up to eight troops. It is flown by two pilots and a gunner.

It is 57 feet, 4 inches (17.475 meters) long and the five-bladed main rotor has a diameter of 56 feet, 7 inches (17.247 meters). The helicopter has an overall height of 21 feet, 3 inches (6.477 meters). The empty weight is 18,740 pounds (8,378 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is 26,500 pounds (12,020 kilograms).

The helicopter is powered by two Isotov TV3-117 turboshaft engines which produce 2,200 horsepower, each. The Mil-24 has a maximum speed of 208 miles per hour (335 kilometers per hour) and a range of 280 miles (451 kilometers). Its service ceiling is 14,750 feet (4,496 meters).

The helicopter is armed with a 12.7 mm Yakushev-Borzov Yak-B four-barreled Gatling gun with 1,470 rounds of ammunition; a twin-barrel GSh-30K 30 mm autocannon with 750 rounds; a twin-barrel GSh-23L 23 mm autocannon with 450 rounds. The Mi-24 can also carry a wide range of bombs, rockets and missiles.

The Mil Mi-24 first flew in 1969 and is still in production. More than 2,300 have been built and they have served the militaries of forty countries.

A Russian-built Mil Mi-24P Hind-F at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Center, Threat Support Activity, NAS Fallon, Nevada. (U.S. Army)
A Russian-built Mil Mi-24P Hind-F at the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Center, Threat Support Activity, NAS Fallon, Nevada. (United States Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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1 February 1943

A badly damaged Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24406, All American III, after collision with an Me 109 over Tunis, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
A badly damaged Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, 41-24406, All American III, after collision with a Messerschmitt Bf 109 over Tunis, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

1 February 1943: During World War II, the 414th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 12th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, was on a mission to attack the docks at the port of Tunis in order to cut the supply chain to the German and Italian armies operating in Tunisia.

A single-engine Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighter defending the city collided with All American III, a Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24406, which was under the command of Lieutenant Kendrick R. Bragg, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps. The fighter cut diagonally through the bomber’s fuselage, carried away the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator, and damaged the flight control cables.

The rugged design and construction that made the Flying Fortress a legend allowed the airplane to fly another 90 minutes to its home base at Biskra Airfield, Algeria. Lieutenant Bragg made a careful landing, holding the tail off the runway as long as possible. None of the ten men aboard were injured.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO 41-24406, All American III, 414th BS, 97th BG, after landing at Biskra Airfield, Algeria, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

All American III was repaired and was returned to service. It was reassigned to the 352nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 301st Bombardment Group (Heavy) at St. Donat, Tunisia, and flew till nearly the end of the war. It was dismantled for salvage at Lucera Airfield, Italy, 6 March 1945.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO Flying Fortress 41-24406, All American III, 414th BS, 97th BG, after landing at Biksra Airfield, Algeria, 1 February 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

41-24406 was assigned to the 92nd Bombardment Group at Bangor, Maine, 13 July 1942. It was flown across the Atlantic Ocean to RAF Polebrook, and reassigned to the 414th. The B-17 arrived at Maison Blanche, Algeria, 13 November 1942. It then traveled to Tafaroufi, Algeria, and then to Biskra, arriving there on Christmas Day.

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9.375 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) nine-cylinder radial engines with turbochargers, producing 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff and 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level. War Emergency Power was 1,380 horsepower. The Cyclones turned three-bladed constant-speed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction.  The R-1820-97 engine is 47.80 inches (1.214 meters) long and 55.10 inches (1.399 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

These engines gave the B-17F a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet, though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

With a normal fuel load of 2,520 gallons (9,540 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 2,880 miles (4,635 kilometers). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions.

The maximum bomb load was 20,800 pounds (9,435 kilograms) over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) of bombs were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The manufacturer codes -BO, -DL and -VE follows the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence.

Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 January 1919–31 January 2002

Major Francis Stanley Gabreski, United States Army Air Forces
Major Francis Stanley Gabreski, United States Army Air Corps (U.S. Air Force)

28 January 1919: Colonel Francis Stanley (“Gabby”) Gabreski, United States Air Force, was born at Oil City, Pennsylvania. He was the second child of Stanley Gabryszewski, a railroad car repairer, and Jozefa Kapica Gabryszewsky, both immigrants from Poland. He attended Oil City High School, graduating in 1938.

Francis Gabreski, 1940. (The Dome)

After two years of study at the University of Notre Dame, where he was a member of the Cracow Club, Francis S. Gabreski enlisted as a Flying Cadet in the United States Army Air Corps, 28 July 1940, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was 5 feet, 8 inches (172.7 centimeters) tall and weighed 146 pounds (66.2 kilograms). Gabreski was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, 14 March 1941.

Lieutenant Gabreski was a fighter pilot assigned to the 45th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, at Wheeler Army Airfield, Territory of Hawaii, flying Curtiss P-36 Hawks and P-40 Warhawks, when the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked there on 7 December 1941.

On 1 March 1942, he was promoted to First Lieutenant, Air Corps, Army of the United States, and to Captain, 16 October 1942. He was sent to Britain with the 56th Fighter Group.

Because of his Polish lineage and his fluency in the language, Gabreski requested assignment to a Polish fighter squadron fighting with the Royal Air Force. His request was approved and he was assigned to No. 315 Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, London, England, where he flew the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX. One of those Spitfires, Spitfire Mk.IXc BS410, is currently under restoration at the Biggin Hill Herritage Hangar.

Francis S. Gabreski in the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire F. Mk.IX, PK E, BS410, with No. 315 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Captain Francis S. Gabreski, U.S. Army Air Corps, in the cockpit of his Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX, PK E, BS410, with No. 315 Squadron, Royal Air Force, at RAF Northolt, England, 1943. (Royal Air Force)

As American involvement in the European Theater increased, “Gabby” returned to the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, and flew the Republic P-47C Thunderbolt. He was promoted to the rank of Major, 19 July 1943.

Major Gabreski took command of the 61st, 13 April 1944. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 23 January 1944.

By July 1944, he had shot down 28 enemy fighters in aerial combat and destroyed another three on the ground, making him the leading American fighter ace up to that time.

Major Gabreski’s Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt, 42-26418, RAF Boxted, Essex, England, 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Gabreski’s Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt, 42-26418, RAF Boxted, Essex, England, 1944. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Francis S. Gabreski, commanding 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, in the cockpit of his Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt, 42-26418, at RAF Boxted, 1944. The marks indicate 31 enemy aircraft destroyed. (Imperial War Museum)

Having completed his combat tour and waiting transport to the United States, on 20 July 1944 Gabreski decided to take “just one more” combat mission. As he made a low strafing run across an enemy airfield near Bassenheim, Germany, the tips of his propeller blades hit the ground, causing a severe vibration. He put his Thunderbolt down on its belly, climbed out and ran to avoid being captured. He was caught after evading the enemy for five days, and was held as a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft I until April 1945.

Two German officers stand on the wing of Colonel Gabreski's Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderboalt, 42-26418, after his belly landing near Bassenheim, Germany, 20 July 1944. (Luftwaffe)
Two German officers stand on the wing of Major Gabreski’s Republic P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt, 42-26418, after his belly landing near Bassenheim, Germany, 20 July 1944. (Luftwaffe)
Colonel Gabreski's P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt, 42-26418, near bassenheim, Germany. (Luftwaffe)
Major Gabreski’s P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt, 42-26418, near Bassenheim, Germany. (Luftwaffe)
Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Francis S. Gabreski, 11 June 1945.(andrezejburlewicz.blog)

Gabreski was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Army of the United States, 24 October 1945. He was released from active duty in September 1946. He then joined the Air National Guard with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 6 December 1946.

During the the Korean War, Lieutenant Colonel Gabreski served with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing and commanded the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. He is credited with shooting down 6.5 MiG 15 fighters with North American Aviation F-86A and F-86E Sabres. (The “.5” represents credit for one enemy airplane destroyed shared with another pilot.) He flew 100 combat missions over Korea.

After a staff assignment, Gabreski attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. He was then assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff, 9th Air Force.

He went on to command two tactical fighter wings, the 354th and the 18th, flying North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabres.

Colonel Gabreski’s final fighter command was the 52nd Fighter Wing (Air Defense) based at Suffolk County Airport, New York, which was equipped with the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo interceptor.

Colonel Gabreski retired from the Air Force 1 November 1967 after 27 years of service and 37.5 enemy aircraft destroyed. At the time of his retirement, he had flown more combat missions than any other U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.

Colonel Gabreski with a North American F-100 Super Sabre, Okinawa, 1962. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Gabreski with a North American F-100 Super Sabre, Okinawa, ca. 1962. (U.S. Air Force)

Gabby Gabreski married Miss Catherine Mary (“Kay”) Cochran, 11 June 1945. They would have nine children. Two of their sons graduated from the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and became U.S. Air Force pilots. His daughter-in-law, Lieutenant General Terry L. Gabreski, USAF, was the highest-ranking woman in the United States Air Force at the time of her retirement. Mrs Gabreski died in a car accident in 1993.

Colonel Gabreski was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in combat on 26 November 1943, when he shot down two enemy Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters. His other decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster (two awards), Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with two silver and bronze oak leaf clusters (thirteen awards), Bronze Star, Air Medal with one silver and one bronze oak leaf cluster (seven awards), and Prisoner of War Medal. He was awarded the Royal Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, France’s Légion d’honneur and Croix de Guerre with Palm, Poland’s Krzyż Walecznych and the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm.

In 1991, Suffolk County Airport, New York, was renamed Francis S. Gabreski Airport in his honor.

Colonel Gabreski died  31 January 2002 at the age of 83 years. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery, Long Island, New York.

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Stanley Gabreski, United States Air Force, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, standing in the cockpit of his North American Aviation F-86E Sabre, Korea, ca. 1952. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel Francis Stanley Gabreski, United States Air Force, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, standing in the cockpit of his North American Aviation F-86E Sabre, Korea, ca. 1952. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 January 1973

McDonnell F-4B-28-MC Phantom II Bu. No. 153068. Note the MiG 19 kill mark painted on the intake splitter vane. (U.S. Navy)
McDonnell F-4B-28-MC Phantom II Bu. No. 153068. Note the MiG 19 kill mark painted on the intake splitter vane. (U.S. Navy)

14 January 1973: A McDonnell F-4B-28-MC Phantom II, Bu. No. 153068, flown by Lieutenant Victor T. Kovaleski and Ensign D.H. Plautz of VF-161 Chargers, from the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVA-41), was hit by 85 mm anti-aircraft artillery approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Thanh Hóa, North Vietnam. The aircraft began leaking fuel and after flying offshore, the crew ejected. Both men were rescued.

This was the very last United States aircraft lost to enemy action during the Vietnam War.

Two days earlier, Lieutenant Kovaleski and Lieutenant James R. Wise, flying 153068, had shot down a Vietnam Peoples Air Force MiG 17 flown by Senior Lieutenant Luu Kim Ngo, near Hải Phòng, using an AIM 9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile. This was the last air combat victory by a U.S. airplane during the Vietnam War.

On 18 May 1972, F-4B Bu. No. 153068, flown by Lieutenants Henry A. (“Bart”) Bartholmay and Oran R. Brown, on their first combat mission over North Vietnam, shot down an enemy MiG 19 fighter with an AIM-9 Sidewinder near Kep Airbase, northeast of Hà Nội, North Vietnam.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 January 2012

F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle 89-0487 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, 13 January 2012. (Photograph by Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, USAF)
McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle 89-0487, assigned to the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, taxis into its revetment at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, 13 January 2012. Note the World War II Eagle Squadron insignia and the green star kill mark painted on the fighter bomber’s nose. (Photograph by Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, USAF)

13 January 2012: This McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle, 89-0487, became the first F-15 to have logged over 10,000 flight hours. Regularly assigned to Captain Justin Pavoni, Pilot, and Lieutenant Colonel David Moeller, Weapons System Officer and commander of the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, on the mission which achieved the milestone, 487 was flown by Captain Ryan Bodenheimer, pilot, and Captain Erin Short, WSO, the two youngest flyers in the squadron.

89-0487 was accepted by the Air Force on 13 November 1990. At the time of this event, 487 was considered to be the flag ship of the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. During a three month period at Bagram Air Base, this individual F-15E flew 1,200 hours and dropped 15% of all the bombs dropped by the squadron.

During Operation Desert Storm, Captains Tim Bennett and Dan Bakke, USAF, flying this F-15E, used a GBU-10 Paveway II 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb to “shoot down” an Iraqi Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter. 487 is the only F-15E to have scored an air-to-air victory.

This airplane is still in service with the United States Air Force. It passed 12,000 flight hours on 16 August 2016. It has been deployed for combat operations 17 times.

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle 89-0487 lands at Bagram Air Base after passing its 10,000th flight hour, 13 January 2012. (Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, U.S. Air Force)
With Captains Bodenheimer and Short in the cockpit, McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle 89-0487 lands at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, after passing its 10,000th flight hour, 13 January 2012. (Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, U.S. Air Force)

The Strike Eagle was begun as a private venture by McDonnell Douglas. Designed to be operated by a pilot and a weapons system officer (WSO), the airplane can carry bombs, missiles and guns for a ground attack role, while maintaining its capability as an air superiority fighter. It’s airframe was a strengthened and its service life doubled to 16,000 flight hours. The Strike Eagle became an Air Force project in March 1981, and  went into production as the F-15E. The first production model, 86-0183, made its first flight 11 December 1986.

The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-place twin-engine multi-role fighter. It is 63 feet, 9 inches (19.431 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¾ inches (13.049 meters) and height of 18 feet, 5½ inches (5.626 meters). It weighs 31,700 pounds (14,379 kilograms) empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 81,000 pounds (36,741 kilograms). The F-15E is powered by two Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engines which produce 17,800 pounds of thrust (79.178 kilonewtons) each, or 29,100 pounds (129.443 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

Captain Ryan Bodenheimer climbs down from the cockpit of F-15E Strike Eagle 89-0487 after completing the mission in which the aircraft passed the 10,000 flight hour mark. (U.S. Air Force)

The Strike Eagle has a maximum speed of Mach 2.54 (1,676 miles per hour, (2,697 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and is capable of sustained speed at Mach 2.3 (1,520 miles per hour, 2,446 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). The fighter-bomber has a combat radius of 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) and a maximum ferry range of 2,765 miles (4,450 kilometers).

Though optimized as a fighter-bomber, the F-15E Strike Eagle retains an air-to-air combat capability. The F-15E is armed with one 20mm M61A1 Vulcan 6-barrel rotary cannon with 512 rounds of ammunition, and can carry four AIM-9M Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles and four AIM-7M Sparrow radar-guided missiles, or a combination of Sidewinders, Sparrows and AIM-120 AMRAAM long range missiles. It can carry a maximum load of 24,500 pounds (11,113 kilograms) of bombs and missiles for ground attack.

This McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is carrying AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 2,000-pound laser guided bombs, targeting designators and jettisonable fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)
This McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is carrying AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 2,000-pound laser guided bombs, targeting designators and jettisonable fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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