Boeing F-15 Eagle

Aircraft Profile
F-15C 84-0021 from the 36th TFW 53 TFS at
Bitburg, Germany, seen at Fairford in 1991.
(photo, Anthony Noble)


On 23rd December 1969 McDonnell Douglas was named winner of the “FX” contest to build a new air superiority fighter. There was no “XF-15” as the aircraft was ordered straight “off the drawing board”. The most unusual part of the Eagle development was the use of 3/8th scale glider models which were launched from a NASA NB-52B at Dryden Flight Research Centre. During the flight test programme record attempts were carried out at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota, these records included times to heights varying from 3,000 meters to 30,000 meters.

The first F-15A was rolled out on 26th June 1972, and its maiden flight was the following month on 27th July 1972. The first two-seater version flew on 7th July 1973. The first of 729 production F-15s flew on 25th November 1974, one in seven being a two-seater. Operational capability was reached in July 1975. By 1986 the USAF had nine F-15 squadrons in mainland USA, four in Europe, and three in the Pacific. The F-15A and B have been sold to Israel under the “Peace Fox” programme, the first of 51 aircraft being delivered in 1976. The JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force) took delivery of 88 F-15Js beginning in July 1980 under the “Peace Eagle” programme. Another customer for the F-15 was Saudi Arabia, they took delivery of 62 F-15Cs and Ds between 1982 and 1984 plus two extras for reserves.

The F-15B is the two-seat training version of the F-15A, appart from the second seat and some minor internal changes the A and B versions have the same performance characteristics.

On 26th February 1979 the first F-15C flew, and deliveries began in mid 1980. The F-15C is externally identical to the ‘A’ model when not carrying the FAST (Fuel And Sensor Tactical) packs. These packs are now referred to as Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT). Internally the F-15C has additional wing leading edge tanks and additional tanks in the central fuselage, the extra weight of fuel raised the gross weight of the F-15C to over 68,000lb, so items such as breaks, tyres and wheels had to be strengthened. The AN/APG-63 radar was equipped with Programmable Signal Processor (PSP), this high speed computer controls the radar modes through its software, this allows switching between different modes. Some F-15Cs can carry up to 18 cluster bombs or 6 Mk.82 bombs and can release them at supersonic speeds.

The F-15 Multi-Stage Improvement Programme (MSIP) is a joint programme carried out by McDonnell Douglas and the USAF’s Warner Robins Logistics Centre in Georgia. Upgrades were incorporated into the production line and then retrofitted to earlier production aircraft. MSIP II is to upgrade the F-15C/D models, the main part of which is to fit APG-70 radar and the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.

The F-15E Strike Eagle was a privately funded feasability study to adapt the basic F-15 to the air-to-ground role. The first modified demonstrator aircraft flew on 8th July 1980. It was equipped with a modified APG-63 radar that used synthetic aperture radar techniques and the back seat was fitted out for a weapons System Officer (WSO).

F-15C 80-0022 from the 36 TFW 22 TFS at Bitburg, Germany, seen at Alconbury in 1991. F-15C 80-0038 from the 57th FIS at Keflavik, Iceland, seen at Boscombe Down in 1992.
(All photos Anthony Noble)


Requirement Specification: FX
Manufacturers Designation: ?

Development History:
F-15A Initial single-seat version for USAF and Israel with F100-PW-100 engines and APG-63 radar. Note: Initial development aircraft designated F-15A not YF-15
F-15A/B MSIP Minor update to USAF aircraft fleet during the 1980s
TF-15A Initial designation for F-15B
F-15B First two-seater trainer version. Fully mission capable but without the F-15As AN/ALQ-135 ECM equipment
F-15A/B MSIP Upgrade to near F-15C/D standard for USAF aircraft during the 1990s, with APG-70 radar, new avionics and digital computers replacing the original analog computers
F-15C Improved single-seater for USAF with increased internal fuel, updated APG-63 radar and provision for CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks) along the sides of the intakes. Initial aircraft had F100-PW-100 engines, but most were delivered with F100-PW-220 standard engines.
F-15D Two-seat version of F-15C
F-15C/D MSIP Avionics upgrade for USAF aircraft with new APG-70 radar, cockpit displays, EW systems and digital computers.
F-15DJ Two-seat version of F-15D for Japan
TF-15A ‘Strike Eagle’ Second development TF-15A modified during 1982 for dedicated air-ground operations to potentially replace the F-111. Company funded demonstrator.
F-15E Production two-seater with dedicated all-weather ground attack capability. Features strengthened airframe, redesigned cockpit, improved avionics and (in later production and retrofit) uprated F100-PW-229 engines. Note: ‘Strike Eagle’ name not officially adopted by the USAF.
F-15I “Baz” (Eagle) Export version of F-15E for Israel with significant Israeli avionics fit
F-15J Single-seater for Japan based on F-15C with some local avionics
F-15S Export version of F-15E for Saudi Arabia with downgraded avionics and no provision for CFTs.
F-15F Proposed single-seat fighter version of F-15E for Saudi Arabia
F-15H Proposed export version of F-15E for Saudi Arabia with reduced sensor fit
F-15XP Initial generic designation for F-15F/H export versions of F-15E for Saudi Arabia
NF-15B “Agile Eagle” F-15B used for manoeuvre control research
F-15N “Sea Eagle” Proposed version for US Navy
F-15XX Proposed lightweight development of F-15C with improved avionics and systems, as a low cost alternative to the F-22 for the USAF. Abandoned in 1992.
RF-15 “Peak Eagle” Proposed dedicated reconnaissance version
F-15C “Wild Weasel” Proposed defence suppression version
F-15/PDF Planned conversion of F-15Cs to defence suppression role as Precision Direction Finder aircraft. Proposed for aircraft replaced by the F-22.
SMTD Eagle First F-15B development aircraft modified by NASA for flight control research. Fitted with canards and 2D thrust vectoring exhaust nozzels.


Key Dates:
1965    1965 USAF requests feasability studies for a new air superiority fighter, designated “FX”
September 1968    Feasability studies and Request for Proposals issued.
23rd December 1969    McDonnell Douglas named winner of the “FX” contest.
26th June 1972    Roll out of the first single-seater F-15A.
27th July 1972    F-15A maiden flight by company test pilot Irving Burrows.
7th July 1973    Maiden flight of first two-seater F-15B.
24th November 1974    First production F-15A flew.
July 1975    Operational capability declared.
9 January 1976    Delivery of first F-15A to USAF.
End of 1976    The first USAF wing fully equipped.
April 1977    F-15 first deployed in Western Europe by USAFE.
26th February 1979    Maiden flight of first F-15C.
27 June 1979    First combat kills with the Israeli AF.
September 1979    First delivery of F-15C to USAF.
24th February 1984    Production go-ahead for F-15E.
December 1984    Flight testing of F-15C MSIP-II commences.
11th December 1986    Maiden flight of F-15E prototype.
7th September 1988    First flight of SMTD research demonstrator.
1988    First F-15E delivered to the USAF.


Military Operators

U.S. Air Force (F-15A/B 7 wings & 6 ANG sqns, F-15C/D 9 wings, F-15E 5 wings)
Japanese Air Self Defence Force (7 Sqns. with 223 F-15J/F-15DJ)
Israeli Air Force (1 Sqn of F-15A/B, 1 Sqn F-15C/D, 1 Sqn F-15I)
Royal Saudi Air Force (4 Sqns. with F-15C/D, 1+ sqn F-15S)

Government Agencies


Civilian Operators



Boeing F-15A Eagle
Crew: One (Two in F-15B)
Dimensions: Length 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m); Height 18 ft 5½ in (5.63 m); Wing Span 42 ft 9.75 in (13.05 m); Wing Area 608.00 sq ft (56.48 sq m)
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-100 turbofans each rated at 14,760 lb st (65.26 kN) dry and 23,830 lb st (106.0 kN) with afterburning
Weights: Empty Equipped 28,600 lb (12,973 kg); Normal Take-off 41,500 lb (18,884 kg) on an interception mission with four AIM-7 Sparrows or 54,400 lb (24,675 kg) with three 600-US gal (2271 litre) drop tanks; Maximum Take-off 56,000 lb (25,401 kg)
Armament: M61A1 Vulcan rotary cannon in the starboard wing leading edge lip, outboard of the air intake. The gun is fed from a 940 round drum located in the central fuselage. Four AIM-9M Sidewinders carried on the sides of the wing pylons, two on each side. (This arrangement allows a drop tank or bombs to be carried at the same time). Four AIM-7M Sparrow semi-active radar homing missiles carried on attachment points on the lower outer edges of the air intake boxes, two each side – or four AIM-120 AMRAAM on MSIP aircraft. The AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) is a “fire and forget” weapon with an inertial guidance unit that can be updated from the aircraft if required. Although not normally used as a bomber the F-15 has a secondary air-to-ground capability. Up to 16,000 lb of bombs, fuel tanks and missiles can be carried. The F-15 can carry 18 500 lb bombs, six on each wing pylon and six on the fuselage centreline.
Performance: Maximum level speed 1,433 kts (1,650 mph, 2655 kph) ‘clean’ at 36,000 ft (10975 m); Economical cruising speed 495 kts (570 mph, 917 kph) at optimum altitude; Maximum rate of climb at sea level 50,000+ ft/min (15240 m/min); Service ceiling 60,000 ft (18,290 m); Absolute ceiling 100,000 ft (30,480 m); Ferry range with drop tanks 2,500 nm (2,878 mls, 4,631 km)
Boeing F-15C Eagle
As for F-15A except for the following:-
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 turbofans each rated at 14,670 lb st (65.26 kN) dry and 23,830 lb st (106.0 kN) with afterburning
Weights: Empty Equipped 28,600 lb (12,973 kg); Normal Take-off 44,630 lb (20,244 kg) on an interception mission with four AIM-7 Sparrows or 58,700 lb (26,521 kg) with three 610-US gal (2309 litre) drop tanks; Maximum Take-off 68,000 lb (30,844 kg)
Performance: Ferry range with drop tanks 2,500 nm (2,879 mls, 4,633 km) without CFTs, or 3,100 nm (3,570 mls, 5745 km) with CFTs; Combat radius on an interception mission 1,061 nm (1,222 mls, 1967 km)
Boeing F-15E Eagle
As for F-15C except for the following:-
Crew: Two
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofans each rated at 17,800 lb st (79.18 kN) dry and 29,100 lb st (129.45 kN) with afterburning
Weights: Empty Equipped 31,700 lb (14,379 kg); Maximum Take-off 81,000 lb (36,741 kg)
Armament: M61A1 Vulcan rotary cannon in the starboard wing leading edge lip, outboard of the air intake. The gun is fed from a 512 round drum located in the central fuselage. Four AIM-9M Sidewinders carried on the sides of the wing pylons, two on each side. (This arrangement allows a drop tank or bombs to be carried at the same time). Up to 24,250 lb (11,000 kg) of bombs, fuel tanks and missiles can be carried on two wing pylons, underfuselage pylons and 12 bomb racks mounted directly on the CFTs. AIM-7 and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles can also be carried, as on the F-15C.


Design Centre

Head of Design Team: George Graff
Programme Manager: Don Malvern
Design Office: McDonnell Douglas Corporation, St Louis, Missouri


McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation (MCAir)
(Box 516, St Louis, MO 63166, USA. Later Boeing Military Aircraft)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
F-15A 355 St Louis, MO 1972-1979
F-15B 57 St Louis, MO 1972-1979
F-15C 118 St Louis, MO 1979-1985
F-15D 31 St Louis, MO 1979-1985
F-15J 2 St Louis, MO 1979-1980
F-15DJ 12 St Louis, MO 1979-1981
F-15E 209 St Louis, MO 1985-1991
F-15I 26 St Louis, MO 1996-1998
F-15S 72 St Louis, MO 1996-1998
F-15E 10 St Louis, MO 1998-2002
Total: 894    
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd
(5-1, Marunouchi 2-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100, Japan)
Version Quantity Assembly Location Time Period
F-15J 173* Tokyo 1981-1997
Total: 173    

* First 8 a/c assembled from St Louis components. Subsequently, Mitsubishi responsible for forward and centre fuselage, Kawasaki making wings and tails.

Total Produced: 1067 a/c

Production List:

F-15 Eagle – Scramble Special
by Jurgen van Toor
Published by Dutch Aviation Society, 2003 ISBN: ?
* A5 size paperback containing history, operators and an extensive production list.

More Information


‘F-15 Eagle and Strike Eagle – Combat Legends 6’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Steve Davies
Published by Airlife Publishing Ltd, 1 Oct 2002 ISBN: 1840373776
* Concise overview of the F-15 with good illustrations

‘F-15 Eagle in Color’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Peter R Foster
Published by Plymouth Press Ltd, 1 Apr 1998 ISBN: 1882663225
* All-colour pictorial history of the F-15.

‘McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle – Super Heavy-Weight Fighter’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Robert S Hopkins
Published by Midland Publishing, May 1998 ISBN: 1857800818
* Aerofax series. Excellent development history and service use

‘F-15 Eagle Walkaround’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Lou Drendel
Published by Squadron/Signal Publications, Nov 2001 ISBN: 0897474333
* Detailed close-up photos of the F-15

‘USAF F-15 Eagles – Units, Colors & Markings’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Don R Logan
Published by Schiffer Publishing, 9 Apr 2000 ISBN: 0764310607
* Very detailed coverage of USAF F-15 operators

‘McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Peter E Davies & Anthony M Thornborough
Published by Crowood Press, 1 Aug 2001 ISBN: 1861263430
* Includes development history, service career and combat use

‘F-15 Eagle in Action – Aircraft Number 183’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Al Adcock
Published by Squadron/Signal Publications, 200? ISBN: 0897474457
* Up-to-date heavily illustrated history of the F-15

‘F-15C/E Eagle Units of Operation Iraqi Freedom – Osprey Combat Aircraft 47’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Steve Davies
Published by Osprey Publishing, 2004 ISBN: 1-84176-802-2
* Very well illustrated look at F-15 operations over Iraq

‘McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle – Warbird Tech Vol 9’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
by Dennis R Jenkins
Published by Speciality Press, May 1997 ISBN: 0933424728
* Detailed look at the F-15 using excerpts from official technical manuals

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 9’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, Nov 1990 ISBN: 1 87402 3174
* Includes ‘Focus Aircraft’ feature on the F-15 Eagle.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 21’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, Nov 1990 ISBN: 1 87402 3603
* Includes ‘Focus Aircraft’ feature on the F-15E ‘Strike Eagle’.

‘World Air Power Journal, Volume 33’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by Aerospace Publishing Ltd, Nov 1990 ISBN: 1 86184 015 2
* Includes ‘Variant Briefing’ feature on the F-15 Eagle.

‘International Air Power Review, Volume 7’ [Order this book from Amazon UK]
Published by AIRtime Publishing Ltd, April 2003 ISBN: 1 880588 48 X
* Includes ‘Focus Aircraft’ feature on the latest developments and combat actions of the F-15 Eagle.


To be added.


Milavia – F-15 Eagle
(History, specifications, photo gallery, links, books)

F-15 Eagle
(Boeing Military Aircraft official website – backgrond, specs, news, photos)

Boeing F-15 Eagle
( Four pages of excellent photos)

McDD F-15 Eagle
(Serial number info and photos)

Boeing F-15 Eagle Image Gallery
(1 page of photos)

F-15 Eagle
(Good profile covering history, variants, specs etc)

F-15 Eagle
(Concise profile of the F-15)

F-15E Strike
(Very detailed coverage of the USAF F-15E)

How an F-15 works
(How Stuff Works – simple explanations of F-15 design features)

The F-15 Eagle: A Chronology
(Timeline 1965-2002 of key events in F-15 history)

F-15 Eagle
(History, variants, exports, specs, photos, links)

Boeing F-15 Eagle
(Official F-15A & F-15E Flight Manuals on CD-ROM)

Eagle Power
(Information, operators, patches, links, CD-ROM)

F-15 Eagle’s first flight 30 years past
(Edwards AFB feature)

Air Force Technology – F-15E Strike Eagle
(Technical details for F-15E weapons and equipment)

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
( 46 pages of excellent F-15 photos)

The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
(Comprehensive profile updated to 2003)

USAF Museum – McDonnell Douglas F-15 ‘Streak Eagle’
(Brief notes plus photo gallery)

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
(Detailed profile covering all versions of the F-15)

USAF Museum – McDonnell Douglas F-15A ‘Eagle’
(Brief notes on production and exports plus photo gallery)

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
(Colour profile drawings for five USAF F-15s)


Flight Simulator Models:
To be added.

Scale Models:
To be added.

Scale Drawings:
‘F-15C/D Eagle – Lock-On No.4’
by Francois Verlinden
Published by Verlinden Productions Inc, June 1989 ISBN: 9 0709 321 21
* Features close-up colour photographs of external and inernal details plus scale drawings.

‘F-15 Eagle in Detail and Scale – Detail And Scale Vol.14’
by Bert Kinzey
Published by Aero Publishers Inc, 1984 ISBN: ?
* B+W photographs of external and inernal details plus several pages of scale drawings for all variants.


‘Modern Military Aircraft: F-15 Eagle’ [Order this DVD from Amazon UK]
* DVD which takes you into the cockpit of the F-15

‘Great Planes: McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle’
* DVD documentary on the history of the F-15

NASA’s F-15s

There are few fighters that capture the imagination in the same way that the F-15 Eagle does. Almost all the pilots who flew the Eagles in peace and in war, acknowledge that it was a completely ‘different beast’. Its handling capability and its sheer power will be difficult to duplicate in a platform-era bases. To resume, the F-15 will most likely end up in history as the most feared and respected fighter of all time.

The Eagles had been guarding the peace now for more than a quarter of a century. It forms the backbone of, not only the United States Air Force, but most of the Allies, air dominance capability. The majestic ‘Bird’ has also been a fixture on NASA’s flying circles since the mid 1970s. The National Air and Space Administration had and still operate a small fleet of modified F-15s most of them for experimental purposes.

The first F-15 operated by the Administration was serial number 71-0281. The unit was utilized in December 1975 to test the thermal tiles implemented on the Shuttle program. The unit was sent back to the USAF in the spring of 1983. Sample 74-0141, an F-15B version, was use by NASA as an Aerodynamic Flight Facility from the summer of 1994. Those ‘B’ platforms were known inside the space agency as NASA 836 units. Their primary function was to carry a Flight Test Fixture (FTF) on its center pylon.
Inside each FTF were research systems, materials for testing and advance instrumentation. An example of this was the X-33 Thermal Protection System which was tested in FTF-II. The system calibrated, monitored and instrumented the many materials destined for the X-33 flight experimentation profile.

On January 5th, 1976 NASA acquired an F-15A (71-0287), the eight ‘A’ ever produce, designated NASA 835. The 835, which is NASA’s top operating Eagle, served as a test bed for futuristic propulsion systems, aerodynamics, control mechanism, flight techniques and fly-by-wire integrated computers. In 1982, the unit was modified to test the highly advance DEEC Engine Control System (ADECS). The ADECS was a platform utilized to evaluate and to achieve stall control of the engine’s margin under different operational parameters.

F-15 71-0290 in flight. (photo, via author)

After completing the evaluation with ADECS, the 835 was fitted with the Highly Integrated Digital Electronic Control (HIDEC), a new system intended to use computer power to detect loss of, or degradation of control surfaces. It was expected that after the problematic area was identified, HIDEC would re-configured the remaining control sections to compensate. At the same time, it would alert the pilot of the problem and generate a new, real time flight package to assist the pilot in keeping the plane flying.
NASA 835 also tested the controversial Self Repairing Flight Control System (SRFCS) in the autumn of 1989. The SRFCS was, in some ways, very similar to the HIDEC, but one thing that the Self Repairing system offered was an in depth analysis of failures other that that of the control surfaces. Hydraulics, mechanical and electronic systems were all monitored by SRFCS, which will make any correction needed to failing systems in order to keep the aircraft airborne.

In the summer of 1991, the 71-0287 was redesigned to be part of the Performance Seeking Control (PCS) program. The program main function was to optimize engine performance and assure safe operation of the power plants through digital monitoring of failures and digital control of the inlets, nozzles and flight control sections.

835 ended its long and distinguished NASA career flying as a Propulsion Controlled Aircraft (PAC). PAC was initiated because a series of crashed caused by loss of flight control prompted the agency to commence a program to determine whether was possible that a system could be design to maintain control of an aircraft by altering thrust parameters on a single power plant.
Initial results with PAC showed promise as it proved the concept of control through pitch with one engine, though asymmetric application of thrust from two engines was needed to alter heading and induce roll. NASA 835 was the only aircraft using PAC. In one test flight, the unit flew down to less than 10 feet above a runway at 150 KIAS utilizing thumbwheels. Successful landings at Edwards AF base in California proved the soundness of the concept.
The last PCA flying program attached to the 835 was that of the Landing/Maneuvering Technology Demonstrator (S/MTD) for testing emerging technologies for suitability to the USAF’s Advance Tactical Fighter program. Technologies used on the F-22 Raptor and the new F-35 Lighting II.

– Raul Colon

More information:
Jane’s Aircraft Recognition Guide, Gunter Endres and Mike Gething, HarperCollins Publishing 2002
Skunk Works, Ben R. Rich and Leo Janos, Back Bay Books, 1994
Concept Aircraft: Prototypes, X-planes and Experimental Aircraft, Jim Winchester, Editor; Thunder Bay Press, 2007