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F-15 Eagle: The Air Force's Old Fighter No Nation Wants to Fight

Kyle Mizokami

Security,

Like fine wine, it keeps getting better. 

In the late 1980s, the F-15E was developed to supplement—and eventually replace the F-111 fighter bomber as a penetrating, high speed tactical strike aircraft designed to strike deep behind enemy lines in a NATO/Warsaw Pact war in Europe. The E model added conformal fuel tanks to increase range with a heavy bomb payload, the APG-63 radar, and a LANTRIN forward-looking infrared and laser targeting pod. With the retirement of the F-111, the F-15E “Strike Eagle” is now the USAF’s main tactical fighter bomber.

For nearly three decades, the F-15 Eagle fighter was considered the undisputed king of the skies. Until the debut of its replacement, the F-22 Raptor, the F-15 was the U.S. Air Force’s frontline air superiority fighter. Even today, a modernized Eagle is still considered a formidable opponent, and manufacturer Boeing has proposed updated versions that could keep the airframe flying for the better part of a century.

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The F-15 traces its roots to the air war in Vietnam, and the inauspicious showing of American Air Force and Navy fighters versus their North Korean counterparts. Large, powerful American fighters, designed to tackle both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, were performing poorly against their smaller, less powerful—but more maneuverable—North Vietnamese counterparts. The 13:1 kill ratio American fliers enjoyed in the Korean War dropped to an abysmal 1.5 to 1 kill ratio in Vietnam.

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