Service of F-15 Eagle with USAF and ANG

Last revised September 21, 2015

Production of an initial batch of 30 F-15A/B fighters was announced on March 1973. The first Eagle to be delivered to an operational USAF unit was TF-15A 73-0108, formally accepted by the 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron of the 58th Tactical Training Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona on November 4, 1974 in a ceremony presided over by President Gerald Ford. This wing served as the Replacement Training Unit (RTU) for F-15 operations during the initial phases of the introduction of the Eagle into service.

Deliveries to the first combat-ready wing, the 1st TFW at Langley AFB in Virginia, began in January 1976. The F-15s replaced the F-4Es that had previously been flown by this wing. In 1977, F-15As and Bs were issued to the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Bitburg, Germany, marking the first overseas deployment of the Eagle. That same year, the 49th TFW at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, began to receive the Eagle. The 57th Fighter Weapons Wing at Nellis AFB, Nevada received its first F-15A/B Eagles in 1977. These were issued to the 433rd Fighter Weapons Wing and were used to train pilots destined for new Eagle squadrons.

In 1978, Eagles went to the 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Soesterberg in the Netherlonds. It is under Dutch Air Force control as part of its NATO mission. That same year, the 33rd TFW at Eglin AFB in Florida received F-15A/B Eagles.

The introduction of the F-15 into USAF service was not without its problems. The pilots at Luke AFB with the Tactical Training Wing found that they could not mount the planned number of sorties. There were difficulties with parts and maintenance, but the most serious problem was with the engines. The Air Force had underestimated the number of powercycles per sortie and had not realized how much the Eagle's maneuvering capabilities would result in frequent abrupt changes in throttle setting. This caused unexpectedly high wear on key engine components, resulting in frequent failures of key engine components such as first-stage turbine blades. These problems could be corrected by more careful engine maintenance and closer attention to quality control during manufacturing of engine components. However, the most serious problem was stagnation stalling.

There were frequent groundings and delays in engine deliveries while an attempt was made to fix these problem. Strikes at two major subcontractors delayed the delivery of engines. By the end of 1979, the USAF was forced to accept engineless F-15 airframes and place them in storage until sufficient numbers of engines could be delivered. A massive effort by Pratt & Whitney helped to alleviate this problem, but the F-15 suffered from an engine shortage for a long time.

Early problems with the reliability of the F100 engines were largely overcome by modifications plus improvements in materials, maintenance and operating procedures. The installation of a quartz window in the side of the afterburner assembly to enable a flame sensor to monitor the pilot flame of the augmentor helped to cure the problem with "hard" afterburner starts. Modifications to the fuel control system helped to lower the frequency of stagnation stalls. In 1976 the F-15 fleet had suffered 11-12 stagnation stalls per 1000 flying hours. By the end of 1981, this rate was down to 1.5. However, the F100 even today still has a reputation of being a temperamental engine under certain conditions.

In the mid-1980s, the 21st Composite Wing (later Tactical Fighter Wing) received F-15A/B Eagles. There was an embarassing incident on March 19, 1990, when a pilot of one of the Wing's F-15s accidentally fired a live Sidewinder round which struck and damaged another F-15. This incident caused the commander of the Wing to be relieved, although the damaged aircraft was able to land safely, emphasizing the high degree of structural strength and survivability that had been built into the F-15 design.

The last of the 360 F-15As and Bs that were built were delivered to fighter interceptor squadrons that had been assigned by the Tactical Air Command to the aerial defense of the United States. This organization was a descendant of the now-defunct Air Defense Command (known in its last years as the Aerospace Defense Command), which had turned over its resources to TAC in October of 1979. TAC reorganized these assets into the Air Defense Tactical Air Command (ADTAC), headquartered at Colorado Springs. The headquarters were later moved to Langley AFB. A further organization change in 1985 resulted in ADTAC becoming the First Air Force. Four TAC squadrons (5th, 48th, 57th, and 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadrons) took the F-15A/B on charge in the interceptor role, replacing the Convair F-106 Delta Dart. Some of the Eagles operated by these squadrons were wired to carry the Vought antisatellite weapon, although the ASAT program had been officially dropped at Congressional insistence in the early 1980s. The role of the Eagle in the air defense of the United States was a brief one, with the bulk of the air defense role now being carried out by the F-16A Fighting Falcon fighters operated by various units of the Air National Guard. The First Air Force's Eagle interceptor squadrons were deactivated during the early 1990s, and their planes were passed along to the Air National Guard.

The improved F-15C/D began to be delivered to the USAF in the early 1980s. First to get the F-15C/D was the 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Soesterberg in the Netherlands, replacing the unit's earlier F-15A/Bs. These more potent Eagles then were issued to the 18th TFW at Kadena AB in Okinawa (marking the first Pacific deployment of the Eagle), and the 57th FIS at Keflavik in Iceland, and with a second squadron in the Alaskan Air command (the 54th TFS). With the exception of the 49th TFW, the F-15C/D replaced the F-15A/Bs in service with all of the USAF units that had previously been operating the Eagle. A total of 408 F-15Cs and 62 F-15Ds were delivered to the USAF. Many of the F-15A/Bs replaced by the more advanced Eagles were passed along to Air National Guard units.

In the late 1980s, the F-15E "Strike Eagle" ground attack version of the F-15 began to reach Air Force squadrons. The first unit to get the F-15E was the 461st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron (TFTS), which was part of the 405th Tactical Training Wing at Luke AFB in Arizona. It achieved IOC in July of 1988. The first operational F-15E unit was the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing (now just the 4th Wing), stationed at Semour Johnson AFB in North Carolina. It achieved initial IOC in October of 1989. In June of 1990, the F-15E competed in the USAF's *Long Rifle* gunner meet held at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona and scored first and second in the contest.

During Desert Storm, the F-15C and D accounted for 36 of the 39 air-to-air victories claimed by the USAF. Subsequently, F-15s supported Operation Southern Watch, the patrolling of the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. F-15s also participated in Operation Provide Comfort, the support of NATO operations in Bosnia. USAF F-15Cs shot down four Yugoslav MiG-29s during Operation Allied Force, NATO's 1999 intervention in Kosovo. In 1994, two US Army UH-60s were mistakenly shot down by USAF F-15Cs over northern Iraq in a friendly fire incident. In service with all nations, the F-15 has an air-to-air combat record of 104 kills versus no losses as of February 2008. Over half of these kills have been achieved by Israeli AF pilots.

Under the Multi-Stage Improvement Program (MSIP), upgrades were progressively incorporated onto the F-16C/D production line and then retrofitted to earlier production F-15Cs. The MSIP is a joint program carried out by McDonnell Douglas and the Warner Robins Logistics Center in Georgia. F-15A, B, C, and D versions are planned to go through the program. The APG-63 radar will be replaced by the more capable APG-70 radar installed on the later F-15C/D, and improved avionics will be fitted. The analog computers of the F-15A/B will be replaced by digital computers, and the digital computers of the F-15C/D will be replaced by more advanced digital computers. The weapons panel will be improved, and a cathode ray terminal similar to that found on the F-15E. The F-15C/D will be fitted with chaff/flare dispensers behind the nosewheel door. The A models that go through the MSIP will not be fitted with the conformal fuel tanks of the C, but they will be otherwise indistinguishable. However, some of the very early As (from FYs 1973, 1974, and 1975) will not be upgraded under MSIP but will instead be retired and made available as gate guards or donated to museums. Some of them will be given to Israel as payment for policy decisions made during the Gulf War.

In the early 1990s, the USAF decided to consolidate its F-111 assets. The 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath converted from the F-111F to the F-15E during 1992. The first to convert was the Wing's 492nd FS, with a second squadron (either the 493rd or 494th) converting later.

In the general military drawdown following the end of the Cold War, many European-based Eagle units have been transferred stateside or disbanded altogether. In early 1994, the last F-15s of the 32nd Fighter Group left Soesterberg, ending nearly 40 years of USAF presence at this Dutch base. These planes were transferred to the 101st Fighter Squadron of the Massachusetts ANG. In March of 1994, the last of the F-16s with the 36th Fighter Wing left Bitburg. After the departure of the USAF, the base will be returned to German control. The 57th Fighter Squadron at Keflavik reduced its complement of 12 F-15C/Cs to just four in 1994. This reduction was made possible by the virtual absence in recent years of Russian Bear reconnaissance aircraft which regularly used to probe Western defenses in the North Atlantic. The 555th Fighter Squadron stationed at Luke AFB was transferred to Europe, and in its place the 550th Fighter Squadron has been reactivated as the second F-15E unit at Luke. Current plans are to consolidate Strike Eagle training under the 4th Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB. Many of the USAF F-15 wings which are not being deactivated are being sharply cut back in the number of Eagles that they carry on strength--the three squadrons of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB are to reduce their complements from 24 to 18 aircraft each.

The following USAF units have operated the Eagle:

As F-15As and Bs were replaced in USAF service by later-model F-15Cs and Ds, these earlier-model Eagles were passed along to the Air National Guard. The following Air National Guard organizations used the Eagle:

On September 16, 2009, the last F-15A, an Oregon ANG aircraft, was retired, marking the end of service for the F-15A and B models in the United States. The F-15C and D models are being supplemented in USAF service by the F-22 Raptor, but since F-22 production has been halted, the F-15C and D may have to soldier on for a longer period than originally thought. Currently, 178 F-15C/D aircraft are being upgraded with AN/APG-63(V)3 AESA radar and other F-15s are receiving the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System. At least 178 F-15Cs and D, along with 224 F-15Es will probably remain in service beyond 2025.


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