“Strike Eagle Strike Eagle, You Know What I mean/I’ll still be flying in 2019/Yeah I’ll still be flying in 2019.”
Those are the closing lyrics to the song “Strike Eagle” by retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Jonas, who flew F-4 Phantoms during the Vietnam War and then found a fantabulous second career as a professional musician, composing and singing songs about his previous profession, thus being a veritable “fighter pilot’s minstrel.”
Well, here we are in mid-October 2023, and the latest crisis in the Middle East has proven Dick’s lyrics to be more than sufficiently prescient. Let’s take a deeper dive into the details.
The news comes to us courtesy Stefano D’Urso in an October 13, 2023 article for The Aviationist titled “U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles Deploy To Jordan Amid Gaza Crisis.” To wit:
“The U.S. Air Forces Central confirmed the deployment of the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s F-15E Strike Eagle fighters from RAF Lakenheath in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility on October 13 to bolster the U.S. posture and enhance air operations throughout the Middle East … The aircraft, in fact, landed at Muwaffaq Salti/Al-Azraq Air Base in Jordan, one of the usual deployment locations for US aircraft in the area … ‘The U.S. military is committed to the enduring safety and security across the Middle East,’ said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central) and Combined Forces Air Component Command Commander. ‘By posturing advanced fighters and integrating with joint and coalition forces, we are strengthening our partnerships and reinforcing security in the region.’ … These force posture augmentations build on the arrival of the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group.”
What is particularly noteworthy about the Jordanian location is that Jordan is one of only five Arab nations that has diplomatic ties with Israel, and was indeed the second such Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state, doing so in 1994. In addition, the history of Jordanian-Palestinian relations has been a highly contentious one, to say the least, as demonstrated by the “Black September” story.
Quick Review: F-15E Strike Eagle History and Capabilities
As previously noted in the article “EXPLAINED: What Makes The F-15E Strike Eagle Special,” this two-seater version of the Eagle jet made her maiden flight on December 11, 1986, 14 years after her single parent plane had done so.
She was first “blooded” in combat during Operation Desert Storm, i.e., the 1991 Persian Gulf War; amongst her accomplishments in that campaign were strikes fixed Scud installations in western Iraq on the very first night, destroying 18 Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) jets on the ground using GBU-12s and CBU-87 munitions, and scoring an air-to-air kill against an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.
Fast-forward to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and the warbird was credited with destroying 60% of the Iraqi Republican Guard Medina Division’s total force. For good measure, in November 2015 she bagged her highest-value target, Abu Nabil AKA Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, then-leader of Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya. And the Strike Eagle added to her air-to-air kill tally in 2017 and 2021 by shooting down three UAVs over Syria.”
Where To From Here?
Further argument for the fighter came in the form of the article “F-15EX Fighter: Is It Worth It?” published back on May 16, 2022. This latest deployment of the Strike Eagle could in turn conceivably boost the viability of the F-15EX, as it shows that enhanced versions of 4th-generation fighters are still very useful in spite of the prevalence of 5th Generation stealth fighters and the current R&D on 6th-generation warbirds.
Meanwhile, time will tell if the current version of the F-15E will end up racking up a body count against Hamas as she did against the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein’s regime. Going back to that Dick Jonas song “Strike Eagle,” at the 2:50 mark comes the line “I totes more bombs than a B-24/And I laid a couple in Saddam’s backdoor.”
Given the current situation in the Middle East, maybe, just maybe she’ll lay a couple in Ismail Haniyeh’s backdoor for good measure.
Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force Security Forces officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon). Chris holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies (concentration in Terrorism Studies) from American Military University (AMU). He has also been published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cyber Security. Last but not least, he is a Companion of the Order of the Naval Order of the United States (NOUS).