F-15E multi-role fighters recently gained headlines for their participation in the tit-for-tat attacks that occurred between the U.S. and Iranian-backed militants last week. On Thursday, an American contractor was killed in Syria when an Iranian-made kamikaze drone struck a facility housing U.S. personnel in the country.
In response, the U.S. sent over two F-15E fighters to target assets used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The F-15E reprisal strikes were ordered as a direct response to the lethal UAV attack, however, Iranian-backed militants have carried out 78 barrages targeting U.S. troops and American facilities in Syria since the beginning of the year.
Although U.S. officials have yet to reveal the exact damage the pair of F-15E fighters caused, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory said that the airstrikes “left eight Iranian-backed militiamen dead: six in the warehouse in Harabesh and two in the position on the outskirts of Al-Mayadeen.”
Introducing the F-15E fighter
The U.S. Department of Defense saw the need for an air-superiority fighter during the Vietnam War. At this time, the Air Force established its FX competition and manufacturer McDonnell Douglas submitted its F-15 design. Using lessons learned surrounding the changing nature of air-to-air combat from the Vietnam War, McDonnel created the formidable fighter that continues to fly the skies today.
Following more than two years of tests and evaluations, the cutting-edge fighter jet beat out competing airframes and McDonnell officially won the contract. The F-15A took its first flight in 1972 and was delivered to the 58th tactical Fighter Training Wing a couple of years later.
While this airframe was truly game-changing in many ways, the Air Force still desired a platform that could fly at lower altitudes. The F-15E Strike Eagle fulfilled this need.
Originally derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, the F-15E Strike Eagle was designed in the 1980s. The U.S. Air Force announced the Enhanced Tactical Fighter program (later renamed the Dual-Role Fighter competition) to establish a solid replacement for the F-111.
By 1983, the F-15E was selected as the program’s winner, partly due to the airframe’s lower development costs and future growth potential.
What makes the F-15E stand out?
The F-15E has proven to be a staple platform in the U.S. Air Force’s aerial arsenal over the years. In addition to its MACH 2.5 top speed, the fighter can carry a variety of sophisticated munitions, including air-to-air Sidewinders, Sparrows, Small Diameter Bombs, and JCAMS.
The F-15E stands out from other Eagle variants due to its conformal fuel tanks, tandem-seat cockpit for the pilot, and darker airframe camouflage.
Featuring a head-up display, the Eagle can project critical flight information on its windscreen, another factor that differentiates this airframe from its near-peers. Electronics-wise, the Eagle sports several advanced technologies, including radar, and tactical navigation systems.
As detailed by the Air Force, “The APG-70 radar system allows aircrews to detect ground targets from long ranges. One feature of this system is that after a sweep of a target area, the crew freezes the air-to-ground map and then goes back into air-to-air mode to clear for air threats.
During the air-to-surface weapon delivery, the pilot is capable of detecting, targeting and engaging air-to-air targets while the WSO designates the ground target.”
Over the few decades the F-15 Eagle and all of its variants have flown, the platform has achieved an honorable legacy. The airframe has undergone several facelifts over its lifetime and continues to tout improvements to its capabilities. Even following the production of newer fifth-generation platforms like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, the F-15E Strike Eagle is not going anywhere in the near future.
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Maya Carlin is a Senior Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.