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

Last updated: May 7, 2023

The F-15 Eagle fighter jet was created in response to the Soviet Union's new fighter jet, the Foxbat, which had superior capabilities in high altitude, beyond visual range conflicts.

The US Air Force realized their current fighter, the F-4 Phantom, was no longer suitable for these types of fights.

To develop the F-15, leading aircraft designers in the US submitted proposals for a fighter with superior performance in terms of speed, thrust, drag, and weight.

McDonnell Douglas won the contract, creating the F-15 with features such as afterburning turbofans, a high thrust-to-weight ratio, a 360-degree view cockpit, and several missiles under its wings.

Testing proved the F-15 outperformed the Air Force's expectations and broke world records set by the Soviet Union. It was deployed by the US and allied countries such as Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, proving its tactical dominance in any airspace.

  • Soviet Union's new fighter, the Foxbat, set off alarms in the US
  • F-4 Phantom was no longer suitable for beyond visual range conflicts
  • Best aircraft designers in the US submitted proposals for the F-15
  • F-15 features included afterburning turbofans, high thrust-to-weight ratio, and several missiles
  • The F-15 outperformed Air Force expectations, broke records, and was deployed worldwide
  • The MiG-25, which Americans finally examined after a Soviet pilot defected, was not as formidable as the Foxbat in every respect

The Need for a New Fighter Jet 00:02

  • In July 1967, the Soviet Union reveals a new fighter, the Foxbat, which sets off alarm bells in the United States.
  • The US does not have a fighter that can combat the Foxbat.
  • Military planners believed that air battles of the future would be fought beyond visual range, making the F-4 Phantom, the newest fighter jet at the time, no longer suitable.
  • The Phantom was not agile or light, making dogfighting more difficult.
  • The Phantom's guided missiles proved hopelessly inaccurate, pilots were left defenseless, and it was built without a gun for close combat.
  • American pilots were being downed at alarming rates, and military planners were learning that the age of dogfighting was far from over.

The Need for a Dedicated Air Superiority Fighter 00:35

  • In 1968, the Air Force set its sights on building a state-of-the-art air superiority fighter.
  • Leading US aircraft designers were invited to submit proposals in 1968.
  • Their entries were 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.
  • The F-15 Eagle was designed from the ground up for tactical dominance in any air space.

The F-15 Eagle Design Features 01:24

  • The F-15 Eagle had two afterburning turbofans that could unleash a massive forty-eight thousand pounds of combined thrust, making it the fastest fighter jet ever produced by the United States.
  • The engines were fitted with variable air intakes, a computerized air inlet control system that adjusted to ensure optimal airflow at any speed or angle of attack.
  • The F-15 had low wing loading and a high thrust-to-weight ratio, delivering superior maneuverability.
  • The cockpit 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 along the fuselage.
  • The F-15 had a 20 millimeter Gatling gun that could dish out up to six thousand rounds a minute.
  • Engineers designed in triple-redundant hydraulics, low-vulnerability flight controls, and a reinforced airframe for maximum survivability.

Testing the F-15 Eagle 06:55

  • The first prototype was unveiled in June 1972, just three years after McDonnell Douglas was given the go-ahead.
  • The new fighter was put through an extensive testing program and had to prove itself against the best of what the Air Force had to offer.
  • 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.

Breaking World Records 07:57

  • 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.
  • The F-15 was about to erase the new time-to-climb world records set by the Soviet's Mig-25.

F-15 Eagle Production and Deployment 08:47

  • The F-15 Eagle was ordered in large quantities by the US Air Force in 1974.
  • By this time, the fighter was already in mass production with over 400 early F-15A and B models ordered.
  • America's allies, such as Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, 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 of years later and Saudi Arabia.
  • The F-15s were also deployed at West German air bases, right on Soviet Union's doorstep.

Examination of MiG-25 09:22

  • In 1976, Lieutenant Viktor Belenko, a 29-year-old pilot with the Soviet Air Defence Forces, flew his MiG-25 from a Soviet airbase in the Far East to a civilian Airport in Japan, to escape the Soviet Union.
  • Americans got the chance to examine Foxbat down to every last detail after more than a decade shrouded in mystery.
  • Although similar in size and appearance, the MiG-25 F-15 had almost nothing else in common.
  • The MiG-25 was built mostly out of heavy nickel steel alloy, weighing nearly twice as much as the F-15.
  • The large wings of the MiG-25 were not 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 a half G maneuver.
  • The MiG-25's 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 its horizon.
  • The MiG-25 was anything but the dogfighting monster Americans had feared; it was purely a high altitude interceptor, designed to reach incredible speeds catch enemy bombers.
  • It was not 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 Americans.

F-15's Success 11:12

  • F-15 scored its 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 battle, clearing 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 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.

F-15's Vitality 12:02

  • Nearly a half-century after taking to the skies, F-15 remains vital in the U.S. Air Force.
  • With deliveries beginning in 2021, of the F-15EX, a thoroughly modernized replacement for the F-15C.

MiG-25 vs. F-15 12:24

  • The MiG-25 was never designed to combat an air superiority fighter like the F-15.
  • In January of 1991, the two Cold War icons came face to over skies Baghdad.
  • What the MiG-25 lacked in maneuverability, it made up for raw power as the fastest fighter of all time.
  • And the Iraqis would use it to their advantage, devising a daring plan ambush F-15 Eagles as they patrolled the skies.

Nebula 13:02

  • Mustard has a next video on the incredible air battle between MiG-25 and F-15 in Baghdad, exclusively coming to Nebula this month.
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