On the 13th of January 2012, the McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle, 89-0487, became the first F-15 to have logged over 10,000 flight hours. Regularly assigned to Captain Justin Pavoni, Pilot, and Lieutenant Colonel David Moeller, Weapons System Officer and commander of the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, on the mission which achieved the milestone, 487 was flown by Captain Ryan Bodenheimer, pilot, and Captain Erin Short, WSO, the two youngest flyers in the squadron.

89-0487 was accepted by the Air Force on 13 November 1990. At the time of this event, 487 was considered to be the flag ship of the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. During a three month period at Bagram Air Base, this individual F-15E flew 1,200 hours and dropped 15% of all the bombs dropped by the squadron.

During Operation Desert Storm, Captains Tim Bennett and Dan Bakke, USAF, flying this F-15E, used a GBU-10 Paveway II 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb to “shoot down” an Iraqi Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter. 487 is the only F-15E to have scored an air-to-air victory.

McDonnell Douglas F-15E-47-MC Strike Eagle 89-0487, assigned to the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, taxis into its revetment at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, 13 January 2012. Note the World War II Eagle Squadron insignia and the green star kill mark painted on the fighter bomber’s nose. (Photograph by Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom, USAF)

The Strike Eagle was begun as a private venture by McDonnell Douglas. Designed to be operated by a pilot and a weapons system officer (WSO), the airplane can carry bombs, missiles and guns for a ground attack role, while maintaining its capability as an air superiority fighter. Its airframe was a strengthened and its service life doubled to 16,000 flight hours. The Strike Eagle became an Air Force project in March 1981, and  went into production as the F-15E. The first production model, 86-0183, made its first flight 11 December 1986.

The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-place twin-engine multi-role fighter. It is 63 feet, 9 inches (19.431 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 9¾ inches (13.049 meters) and height of 18 feet, 5½ inches (5.626 meters). It weighs 31,700 pounds (14,379 kilograms) empty and has a maximum takeoff weight of 81,000 pounds (36,741 kilograms). The F-15E is powered by two Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engines which produce 17,800 pounds of thrust (79.178 kilonewtons) each, or 29,100 pounds (129.443 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

The Strike Eagle has a maximum speed of Mach 2.54 (1,676 miles per hour/ 2,697 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) and is capable of sustained speed at Mach 2.3 (1,520 miles per hour, 2,446 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling is 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). The fighter-bomber has a combat radius of 790 miles (1,271 kilometers) and a maximum ferry range of 2,765 miles (4,450 kilometers).

This McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is carrying AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, 2,000-pound laser guided bombs, targeting designators and jettisonable fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force)

Though optimized as a fighter-bomber, the F-15E Strike Eagle retains an air-to-air combat capability. The F-15E is armed with one 20mm M61A1 Vulcan 6-barrel rotary cannon with 512 rounds of ammunition, and can carry four AIM-9M Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles and four AIM-7M Sparrow radar-guided missiles, or a combination of Sidewinders, Sparrows and AIM-120 AMRAAM long range missiles. It can carry a maximum load of 24,500 pounds (11,113 kilograms) of bombs and missiles for ground attack.

This airplane is still in service with the United States Air Force.

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Text author: Bryan R. Swopes