How Panic Created The Best Fighter Jet Ever: The F-15 Eagle (2024)

Introduction

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More than 50 years after making its first flight, the F-15 Eagle remains one of the most capable fighter aircraft ever developed.

The F-15 was born from the difficult lessons learned during the Vietnam War. In the late 1950s, Air Force planners were confident that the advent of powerful new radars and long-range air-to-air missiles had rendered close-range aerial combat a thing of the past. So fighter jets like venerable the Mcdonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom were not engineered to be light or agile like their predecessors. Instead, they were designed to be heavily-loaded with missiles and carry powerful radars. Their pilots were no longer trained to dogfight, as they would engage the enemy at great distances, well beyond visual range.

But in the Vietnam War, military planners learned the hard way that the age of dogfighting was far from over. American pilots were being downed at alarming rates. The Friend or Foe (IFF) systems designed to identify enemy targets proved unreliable, forcing Air Force pilots to get in close to visually identify targets. At close-range, up against more agile Soviet-built MiGs, the F-4s were at a disadvantage. They were less agile than the MiGs, lacked a gun for close-range combat, and their pilots weren’t properly trained. To make matters worse, 1967, the Soviet Union looked set to unveil what appeared to be a new super-fighter built for extreme maneuverability.

The devastating experience from Vietnam and concerns being outclassed in the skies pushed the United States to develop a new air-superiority fighter that could face off with any current or future Soviet-built fighter. The result would be a twin-engine, high-performance, all-weather air superiority fighter known for its incredible acceleration and agility. Engineered from the ground up for tactical dominance in any air space, the F-15 holds the distinction of over a hundred aerial victories without a single defeat.

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Content

In July 1967, the Soviet Union reveals what appears to be a new super-fighter.

And.

It sets off alarm.

Bells.

We currently have no fighter in our operational inventory that could constantly.

If successfully, combat the Foxbat.

It is thought to have multiple air-to-air and long long-range air-to-surface missile capability.

At a speed of Mach 3.

With, the United States and Soviet Union locked in a struggle for air superiority, the Soviets seemed to be winning.

Faced, with the prospect of being outclassed in the skies.

The United States would respond by engineering the greatest fighter jet in history.

In, the Korean War, early fighter jets like the American F-86 and Soviet MiG-15 squared off in fierce air-to-air battles.

Both were light, agile jets built for close-range dogfighting.

But by the mid-1950s, new technologies were beginning to radically transform fighter aircraft.

Design.

Powerful new radars could detect the enemy from much greater distances, while newly introduced, guided missiles could hit targets.

Kilometers away., Military planners grew convinced that air battles of the future would be fought beyond visual range, where the enemy wouldn’t be more than a distant blip.

On a radar screen.

And.

It meant the newest fighter.

Jet, the F-4 Phantom, was no longer light or agile.

It was fast, heavily-loaded with missiles and carried a powerful radar.

Many believed that dogfighting had become obsolete.

But in reality.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In, the Vietnam War, the Air Force’s new approach was put to the test.

But things didn’t go as planned.

The skies over Vietnam were a chaotic mix of enemy and friendly aircraft and the systems designed to help Air Force pilots identify the enemy proved.

Unreliable.

Forcing pilots to get in close to visually confirm each target.

The whole idea of engaging from a distance fell.

Apart.

The, new F-4 Phantoms were pulled in to close quarter dog fights against more agile MiGs.

Something.

Their pilots had never been trained to do.

And, the Phantom’s guided missiles proved hopelessly inaccurate.

Designed for larger, high-altitude targets.

Initially only 14% ever hit anything.

And.

When the missiles failed, pilots were left, defenseless.

Because the F-4 was built without a gun for close combat.

The larger, less maneuverable Phantoms, with their notoriously smoky engines, were easily spotted., The, more agile, MiG’s, lured, the F-4s in close, knowing they were vulnerable.

The F-4.

Just barely held its own in this air space because it is an interceptor used as a fighter, finding it difficult to compete with a fighter designed as a fighter.

American, pilots were being downed at alarming rates, and military planners were learning that the age of dogfighting was far from over.

Air Force planners scrambled to respond, equipping the F-4 with pod-mounted Gatling guns and training pilots to engage the more maneuverable MiGs.

But.

These were stop-gap, solutions.

What, the Air Force really needed was a new dedicated air superiority.

Fighter.

And.

It meant scrapping every one of its earlier concepts for the next generation of fighter aircraft, which now looked too large, too heavy, and likely to fare even worse than the Phantom.

And they’d have to move quickly.

Because in 1967, the Soviet Union unveiled a new fighter of their own, and it looked nothing like the MiGs that F-4 Phantoms were squaring off with in Vietnam., Everything seemed to suggest a fighter built for extreme maneuverability., With twin tails, a massive wingspan, and monstrous engines.

Intelligence experts suspected the Soviets were using advanced lightweight materials, along with new radar and weapons systems.

A few months.

Later, the Soviet’s went on a record-setting spree, posting new world speed and altitude records with the new fighter.

We, currently have no fighter in our operational inventory that could constantly.

If successfully, combat the Foxbat.

If the experience in Vietnam wasn’t concerning enough, the Soviet Union now looked ready to unleash a new super-fighter.

After spending, the better part of two decades building, mostly interceptors, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft.

The Air Force finally set its sights on building a state-of-the-art air superiority.

Fighter.

In 1968, leading U.S.

aircraft designers were invited to submit proposals.

Their entries would be assessed using a groundbreaking concept called Energy-Maneuverability.

A mathematical formula to help define a fighter’s total performance in terms of speed, thrust, drag, and weight.

In December 1969, the contract to build the new fighter was awarded to McDonnell Douglas.

Their design was the product of 2.5 million man hours of effort, allowing development to begin immediately., The F-15 Eagle was designed from the ground up for tactical dominance in any air space.

Two afterburning turbofans could unleash a massive forty, eight thousand pounds of combined thrust.

Enough power to break the sound barrier….

Even while flying straight up.

With a top speed of over Mach 2.5, the F-15 would be the fastest fighter jet ever produced by the United States.

For peak performance.

The engines were fitted with variable air intakes with a computerized air inlet control system, adjusting to ensure optimal airflow at any speed or angle of attack.

Where.

Earlier fighters, like the F-4 had a reduced wing area for high supersonic speeds, in the F-15, engineers instead opted for low wing loading which, combined with a high thrust-to-weight ratio, delivered superior maneuverability.

For maximum situational awareness.

The co*ckpit was mounted high in the fuselage, with a canopy offering a commanding 360 degree view, along with a digital heads, up, display, fully integrated with radar and avionics.

Eight, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles were mounted under wings and along the fuselage.

But.

If things got up close and personal, a 20 millimeter Gatling gun could dish out up to six thousand rounds, a minute.

And for maximum survivability, engineers designed in triple-redundant hydraulics, low-vulnerability flight controls, and a reinforced airframe.

With.

Its combination of speed, power and agility.

The F-15 was ready to earn its place as one of the greatest fighters ever built.

The.

First prototype was unveiled in June 1972, just 3 years after McDonald Douglas was given the go ahead.

The new fighter was put through an extensive testing program and it would have to prove itself against the best of what the Air Force had to offer.

Up against the heavy F-4 Phantom.

The F-15 looked assured and in control, easily making quick work of the interceptor.

Even.

The smaller, lighter F-5, used to simulate more agile mig fighters in combat, struggled to shake the larger F-15.

In, nearly every engagement, whether beyond visual range, or close in dogfighting, the F-15 commanded, an overwhelming advantage.

With, a true air superiority fighter on their hands.

The Air Force was ready to send a message to the Soviet Union.

Only a year and half earlier, the Soviet’s posted new time-to-climb world records with the Mig-25.

Now.

The F-15 was about to erase them.

In 1975, engineers stripped a pre-production F-15 of its non-mission critical components, even removing its paint to make it as light as possible.

In, the cold, dense air of North Dakota.

The Eagle made a series of climbs from a dead stop, rocketing up to altitudes as high as 30 kilometers.

Right to the edge of the earth’s stratosphere….

Not only did the F-15 beat the MiG’s records it shattered them by more than 25 percent.

The Air Force had a winner on their hands, and the F-15 Eagle would come to be recognized as one of the most successful fighter.

Development programs in history.

By 1974, the fighter, was already in mass production with over 400 early F-15A and B models ordered for the U.S.

Air Force.

And America’s allies were also eager to get their hands on the new jet.

The first foreign operator was Israel, beginning in 1976, followed by Japan a couple years later and Saudi Arabia.

And, with some of the first F-15's being deployed at West German air bases, right on the Soviet Union’s doorstep.

It seemed only a matter of time before the new fighter faced off against the MiG-25.

In 1976, the Americans finally got a first hand.

Look at the Soviet Union’s super fighter.

But.

It wasn't what they were: expecting.

In September of that year, Lieutenant Viktor Belenko, a 29 year old pilot with Soviet Air Defence Forces made a fateful decision to escape the Soviet Union.

And.

He did it by secretly flying his MiG-25 from a Soviet air base in the Far East to a civilian Airport in Japan.

After more than a decade shrouded in mystery, the Americans got a chance to examine the Foxbat down to every last detail.

Although, similar in size and appearance.

The MiG-25 and F-15 had almost nothing else in common.

Built, mostly out of heavy nickel steel alloy, the Foxbat weighed nearly twice as much as the F-15.

The large wings weren't for agility.

They were needed just to get the monstrous jet airborne.

The enormous weight meant that the MiG-25 could only pull a four and half G maneuver.

The F-15 was capable of nearly that.

Most.

Of what the MiG carried was the fuel needed to feed its enormous engines.

Even so, its combat radius was a mere 300 kilometers., Its avionics used outdated vacuum tubes, and its radar lacked look down.

Capability.

Meaning it couldn't even detect an F-15 flying below it’s horizon.

The MiG-25 was anything but the dogfighting monster.

The Americans had feared.

It was purely a high altitude interceptor.

Designed to reach incredible speeds to catch enemy, bombers.

But.

It wasn't built to do much.

Else.

The Soviets had kept the Foxbat’s capabilities a closely guarded secret, cashing in on its propaganda value and the alarm it had caused the Americans.

But.

Now it was the Soviet’s turn to panic.

Because in 1976.

The Soviet Union had no fighter that stood any chance of surviving a dogfight with an F-15.

F-15s scored their first victories in 1979 when Israeli pilots downed 4 Syrian MiG-21's in a single engagement.

Over the years the Eagle would win air battle after air battle, clearing the skies of adversaries, almost as a matter of routine.

Today, F-15’s have racked up more than 100 victories without a single defeat.

A record unmatched by any fighter in history., Early, F-15, A and B models were soon joined by C and D variants, improving on the aircraft's range, payload and weapon systems.

Originally conceived of as an air superiority fighter.

The F-15 would also be developed into a formidable ground attack, aircraft.

Leveraging, the fighter’s superior range, speed and payload.

Nearly a half century.

After taking to the skies.

The F-15 remains vital to the U.S.

Air Force.

With deliveries, beginning in 2021, of the F-15EX, a thoroughly modernized replacement for the F-15C.

The MiG-25 was never designed to combat an air superiority fighter like the F-15.

But in January of 1991.

The two Cold War icons came face to face over the skies of Baghdad.

And the outcome.

Wasn’T, what anyone could have predicted.

Because, what the MiG-25 lacked in maneuverability, it made up for in raw power as the fastest fighter of all time.

And.

The Iraqis would use it to their advantage, devising a daring plan to ambush F-15 Eagles as they patrolled the skies.

You can learn about this incredible air battle in my next video, coming exclusively to Nebula.

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How Panic Created The Best Fighter Jet Ever: The F-15 Eagle (2024)

FAQs

Why the F-15 Eagle is the best fighter aircraft of all time? ›

The F-15 was the first fighter that could attack multiple enemy targets simultaneously from distances of up to 100 miles, using its sophisticated, nose-mounted radar system and advanced air-to-air radar-guided missiles to blow up the bad guys before they even knew what hit them.

What was the most feared fighter jet? ›

F-15 Eagle is still one of the most dangerous jets around

The F-15 is a legend. The F-15 Eagle and its variants are some of the most capable jet fighters ever. McDonnell Douglas created and produced it primarily as an air superiority tactical fighter. The Eagle is one of the most successful fighters of the modern era.

What is the most successful fighter jet? ›

McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle: over 960. Not just one of the most popular, the F-15 is considered the most successful fighter jet ever built. It scored more than 100 victories in air combat while never actually being shot down by other aircraft.

What is the best jet ever made? ›

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is arguably the best fighter jet in the world. For starters, the 5th generation fighter is nearly impossible to catch in the open skies. It's remarkably fast for a single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet.

What fighter jet was never shot down? ›

“The lore of the F-15—its' got 104 air-to-air kills and it's never been shot down in combat,” said Lt.

Who is the deadliest fighter jet pilot? ›

Erich Hartmann, sometimes referred to as the 'Black Devil', is the deadliest fighter pilot in history, having downed 352 Allied planes during World War Two over the course of some 1,400 missions.

Who is the best fighter pilot in the world? ›

1. Erich “Bubi” Hartmann. Erich Hartmann is the most successful fighter pilot of all times – with 352 kills.

Who has the most powerful Air Force in the world? ›

Introduction. The world's largest air forces vary in size and strength by country, with the United States having the largest air force, followed by Russia and China. The US has over 13,000 aircraft, with a significant number of planes belonging to the Army and Navy.

What was the most successful plane in World War 2? ›

The long-range P-51 Mustang fighter was invaluable to the Allied victory, enabling resumption of strategic bombing after heavy losses suffered by unescorted bombers in 1943. Developed for export to Britain, models modified by the British to use Rolls-Royce Merlin engines became America's most capable wartime fighters.

Who builds the best jet engines? ›

As per Global Commercial Aircraft Turbofan Engines Market Report 2022-2041, the top four engine manufacturers were GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, & Safran (CFM International). GE and Safran of France have a joint venture, called CFM International.

Has an F 18 ever been shot down? ›

April 2, 2003 –An F/A-18 Hornet of VFA-195 is shot down by friendly fire via US Patriot missile, killing the pilot.

What's so special about the F-15? ›

The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to permit the Air Force to gain and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield. The Eagle's air superiority is achieved through a mixture of unprecedented maneuverability and acceleration, range, weapons and avionics.

Has an F-15 Eagle ever been lost in combat? ›

The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. It is among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 victories and no losses in aerial combat, with the majority of the kills by the Israeli Air Force. The Eagle has been exported to numerous countries including Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

Is the F-15 Eagle better than the SU-30? ›

In terms of maximum speed, the F-15 Eagle has an edge. It has a top speed that is slightly above Mach 2.5, while the Su-30 MKI is capable of a top speed of Mach 2.

Can F-35 beat F-15? ›

The F-35 performs better in contested airspace, especially when launching strikes and evading enemy forces. Nevertheless, the F-15C only supports air-to-air combat and thus primarily defends U.S. installations as well as foreign military bases.

Did a MiG-25 shot down an F-15? ›

On January 30th, however, a MiG-25 hit an F-15 using an R-40 missile - with the Iraqi Air Force claiming the jet was shot down citing evidence of a wreckage in Saudi Arabia.

Why did the US lose so many aircraft in Vietnam? ›

Among the first USAF losses were more Firebees. By mid-1965, several manned aircraft were lost due to ground fire, lack of fuel, mishaps, and other causes, and many aircrews were already prisoners of war. The increasing pace of flights provided a target-rich environment for North Vietnam.

Has an F 14 ever been shot down? ›

On 21 January 1991, an F-14B with its pilot, Lieutenant Devon Jones, and Radar Intercept Officer, Lieutenant Lawrence Slade, of VF-103 was shot down by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile while on an escort mission over Al Asad Air Base.

What pilot has the most dogfight kills? ›

Erich Hartmann, with 352 official kills the highest scoring fighter pilot of all time.

What do Air Force pilots get paid? ›

Air Force Pilot Salaries
Job TitleSalary
United States Federal Government Air Force Pilot salaries - 25 salaries reported$113,291/yr
Air National Guard Air Force Pilot salaries - 6 salaries reported$109,196/yr
Air Force Reserve Air Force Pilot salaries - 4 salaries reported$114,828/yr
17 more rows

What US pilot has the most kills? ›

Known as the “Ace of Aces,” Major Richard Ira Bong is credited with the downing of an impressive confirmed total of 40 enemy aircraft. Top Image: Major Richard Bong courtesy of the US Air Force.

Who is the best pilot in U.S. history? ›

Major Richard Bong, Army Air Forces

Richard Bong was one of the most decorated American fighter pilots of all time. Achieving five confirmed kills was a feat that earned a fighter pilot the title of ace.

What is the best fighter pilot salary? ›

How Much Do Fighter Pilot Jobs Pay per Month?
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$120,000$10,000
75th Percentile$105,500$8,791
Average$99,206$8,267
25th Percentile$83,500$6,958

Which country has the strongest Defence? ›

Top 10 Strongest Armies in the World in Detail
  • The United Kingdom. ...
  • Italy. ...
  • France. ...
  • South Korea. ...
  • India. ...
  • China. ...
  • Russia. ...
  • The United States. The US possesses a fleet of ten aircraft carriers, which is its most significant conventional military advantage.
Jun 14, 2023

Who has the best air army in the world? ›

The United States of America maintains the strongest Air Force in the world by an impressive margin. As of late 2021, the United States Air Force (USAF) is composed of 5217 active aircraft, making it the largest, the most technologically advanced, and the most powerful air fleet in the world.

Who had the strongest military in the world? ›

1. United States Of America. US Military has the biggest defence budget in the world. They are known for their most powerful Air Force on the planet, named as United States Air Force (USAF).

What plane did German pilots fear the most? ›

They called it a 'fork-tailed devil. ' Key point: The P-38 was a forerunner of modern multi-role fighters.

Who had the best tanks in ww2? ›

The Panther is often believed to be the best German tank of the Second World War. When the Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, they were surprised by the quantity and quality of Soviet armour. Hitler ordered that the T-34 be copied and the result was the Panther, which saw action for the first time at Kursk in 1943.

Has a 747 ever broken the sound barrier? ›

High-speed 747s

The 747-100, for instance, was tested up to Mach 0.99, almost breaking the sound barrier. Other 747s, such as Air Force One, have approached the sound barrier but never crossed it.

What will replace jet engines? ›

Electric Engine Systems. There are two types of electric engine systems that replace jet engines: the pure electric system that obtains propulsion with just the electric motor and the hybrid system that employs both a jet engine and an electric motor.

What US company built the world's largest jet engine? ›

General Electric GE90
GE90
GE90-115B
TypeTurbofan
National originUnited States
ManufacturerGE Aviation
7 more rows

What is the most efficient jet engine ever? ›

The Trent XWB is also considered one of the most efficient engines ever built, which allows the A350 to start a new generation of ultra-long-haul flights such as Project Sunrise and Singapore Airlines' New York to Singapore service.

Has the F-22 ever been shot down? ›

The Chinese surveillance balloon that an F-22 shot down on February 4 showed up amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, the latter of which has been operating a global network of such balloons across five continents, the Pentagon said.

How many a-10 Warthogs were shot down? ›

The A-10 force, flying more than 8,000 combat sorties, suffered only five A-10s destroyed (a loss rate of . 062 percent). Twenty of these aircraft returned with significant battle damage, and forty-five others returned with light damage that was repaired between sorties.

Has the F-22 ever shot down another plane? ›

In air-to-air combat, the F-22 has a spotless record — just not against fighter aircraft. In two separate incidents in February 2023, Raptors shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina as well as an “unidentified object” over Alaska.

Is the F-15 a good dogfighter? ›

A number of features make the F-15C an ideal dogfighter. With a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than 1:1, it is one of the few fighters with that power advantage, so it can accelerate during a vertical climb. And the large lifting surface of the fuselage enables the Eagle to keep flying even with a lot of battle damage.

Would an F-16 beat an F-15? ›

Overall, the F-16 appears less advantageous than the F-15 due to its lower maximum speed, service ceiling, and slower rate of climb. However, though the F-16 is less powerful than the F-15, it is more maneuverable as a single-engine fighter aircraft.

Who would win F-15 vs f18? ›

To outmaneuver enemy aircraft, the fighter must be able to accelerate and turn faster, and the F-15 has an advantage over the F/A-18 in both of these factors.

What was the most feared fighter jet in ww2? ›

The Focke-Wulf FW-190 was widely believed to be the best fighter aircraft of World War II. As the war went on the FW-190 was manufactured in no fewer than 40 different models. The appearance of the new aircraft over France in 1941 was a rude surprise to the Allied air forces.

Is the F-35 a failure? ›

At the end of fiscal year 2021, there were more than 800 F-35 deficiencies that still needed remediation. So while paying for the faulty F-35, we also need additional funding to keep the old planes in the air. Another important factor: The F-35s crash. In 2022 alone, one of each F-35 variant crashed.

What was the most feared aircraft in ww2? ›

Junkers Ju87 Widely known as the “Stuka”, the Ju87 was one of the most feared aircraft during World War Two. It had a fearsome siren which terrified those who heard it.

Does the f22 have any kills? ›

After nearly 2 decades in service, the F-22 has its first air-to-air kills — neither against the jets it was designed to fight.

Which fighter had the most kills in ww2? ›

While serving in Germany's Luftwaffe in World War II, Erich Hartmann flew more than 1,400 missions in the Messerschmitt Bf 109, enabling him to score an astonishing 352 kills. How did Hartmann get so good at dominating the skies over the Eastern Front? What were his beliefs?

Who was the most feared German fighter in ww2? ›

Erich Alfred Hartmann (19 April 1922 – 20 September 1993) was a German fighter pilot during World War II and the most successful fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He flew 1,404 combat missions and participated in aerial combat on 825 separate occasions.

Why did the F-22 fail? ›

Although the USAF had originally planned to buy a total of 750 ATFs, the program was cut to 187 production aircraft in 2009 due to high costs, a lack of air-to-air missions at the time of production, and the development of the more affordable and versatile F-35. The last F-22 was delivered in 2012.

Is SU 57 better than F-35? ›

The SU-57 is generally considered to have better speed and maneuverability than the F-35, while the F-35 emphasizes stealth and versatility.

Is there a better plane than F-35? ›

The F-22 is faster than the F-35, but both aircraft are considered to be very fast. Range: The F-22 Raptor has a combat radius of approximately 600 nautical miles, while the F-35 Lightning II has a combat radius of approximately 590.

What American pilot has the most kills? ›

Known as the “Ace of Aces,” Major Richard Ira Bong is credited with the downing of an impressive confirmed total of 40 enemy aircraft. Top Image: Major Richard Bong courtesy of the US Air Force.

What is the toughest plane to fly? ›

What are the hardest planes to fly? The hardest planes to fly include personal aircraft such as the wildly popular Cessna 150/152, Cessna 162, and the Luscombe Silvaire. The hardest commercial aircraft to fly is the BAC Concorde. And the hardest plane to fly in the world is the US military-used U-2 Spy Plane.

Which fighter did the Germans fear most? ›

They called it a 'fork-tailed devil. ' Key point: The P-38 was a forerunner of modern multi-role fighters.

What was the most beautiful WWII aircraft? ›

Supermarine Spitfire

One of the iconic symbols of WWII, thanks in no small part to its beautiful elliptical wings – the Spitfire was loved by its pilots. A beautiful machine. Built for speed, maneuverability and ease of flight, the Supermarine Spitfire's design also proved supremely adaptable.

Who is the deadliest pilot? ›

1. Erich “Bubi” Hartmann. Erich Hartmann is the most successful fighter pilot of all times – with 352 kills.

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