McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle is an American all-weather multirole strike fighter, derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic-warfare aircraft. United States Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagles can be distinguished from other U.S. Eagle variants by darker aircraft camouflage and conformal fuel tanks mounted along the engine intake ramps.

The Strike Eagle has been deployed for military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, among others. During these operations the F-15E has carried out deep strikes against high-value targets, combat air patrols, and provided close air support for coalition troops. It has also been exported to several countries.

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer McDonnell Aircraft
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1986
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Israel View
Korea View
Saudi Arabia View
Singapore View
United States of America 1988 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Boeing View
McDonnell Aircraft 420 View

The F-15E's deep strike mission is a radical departure from the original intent of the F-15, since the F-15 was designed as an air superiority fighter under the mantra "not a pound for air-to-ground." The basic airframe, however, proved versatile enough to produce a very capable strike fighter. The F-15E, while designed for ground attack, retains the air-to-air lethality of the F-15, and can defend itself against enemy aircraft. The F-15E prototype was a modification of the two-seat F-15B. The F-15E, despite its origins, includes significant structural changes and much more powerful engines. The aft fuselage was designed to incorporate the more powerful engines with advanced engine bay structures and doors. The advanced structures utilized Superplastic forming and diffusion bonding (SPF/DB) technologies. The back seat is equipped for a Weapon Systems Officer (WSO pronounced 'wizzo') to work the new air-to-ground avionics. The WSO uses multiple screens to display information from the radar, electronic warfare, or Thermographic cameras, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic moving map to navigate. Two hand controls are used to select new displays and to refine targeting information. Displays can be moved from one screen to another, chosen from a menu of display options. Unlike earlier two-place jets (e.g. the F-14 Tomcat and Navy variants of the F-4), whose back seat lacked flying controls, the back seat of the F-15E cockpit is equipped with its own stick and throttle so the WSO can take over flying, albeit with reduced visibility.

To extend its range, the F-15E is fitted with two conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that hug the fuselage. These produce lower drag than conventional underwing/underbelly drop tanks. They carry 750 U.S. gallons (2,800 liters) of fuel, and house six weapons hardpoints in two rows of three in tandem. Unlike conventional drop tanks, CFTs cannot be jettisoned, thus the increased range is offset by the degraded performance from the increased drag and weight compared to a "clean" configuration. Similar tanks can be mounted on the F-15C/D and export variants, and the Israeli Air Force makes use of this option on their fighter-variant F-15s as well as their F-15I variant of the Strike Eagle, but the F-15E is the only U.S. variant to be routinely fitted with CFTs. The Strike Eagle's tactical electronic warfare system (TEWS) integrates all countermeasures on the craft: radar warning receivers (RWR), radar jammer, radar, and chaff/flare dispensers are all tied to the TEWS to provide comprehensive defense against detection and tracking. This system includes an externally mounted ALQ-131 ECM pod which is carried on the centerline pylon when required. The APG-70 radar system allows air crews to detect ground targets from longer ranges. One feature of this system is that after a sweep of a target area, the crew freezes the air-to-ground map 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. The APG-70 is to be replaced by the AN/APG-82(v)1 active electronically scanned array Radar (AESA) radar, which will begin flight tests in January 2010 with initial operational capability expected in 2014. Its inertial navigation system uses a laser gyroscope to continuously monitor the aircraft's position and provide information to the central computer and other systems, including a digital moving map in both cockpits. The low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) system is mounted externally under the engine intakes; it allows the aircraft to fly at low altitudes, at night and in any weather conditions, to attack ground targets with a variety of precision-guided and unguided weapons. The LANTIRN system gives the F-15E exceptional accuracy in weapons delivery day or night and in poor weather, and consists of two pods attached to the exterior of the aircraft. At night, the video picture from the LANTIRN can be projected on the HUD, producing an infrared image of ground contour.

The navigation pod contains a terrain-following radar which allows the pilot to safely fly at a very low altitude following cues displayed on a heads up display. This system also can be coupled to the aircraft's autopilot to provide "hands off" terrain-following capability. Additionally, the pod contains a forward looking infrared system which is projected on the pilot's HUD which is used during nighttime or low visibility operations. The AN/AAQ-13 Nav Pod is installed beneath the right engine intake.

The targeting pod contains a laser designator and a tracking system that mark an enemy for destruction as far away as 10 mi (16 km). Once tracking has been started, targeting information is automatically handed off to infrared homing air-to-surface missiles or laser-guided bombs. The targeting pod is mounted beneath the left engine intake; configurations may be either the AN/AAQ-14 Target Pod, AN/AAQ-28 LITENING Target Pod or the AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod. The F-15E carries most weapons in the USAF inventory. It is also armed with AIM-9 Sidewinders and AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Since the Strike Eagle retains the counter-air capabilities from its Eagle lineage, it is regularly trained for counter-air missions, and fully capable for Offensive-Counter-Air. Like the F-15C, the Strike Eagle also carries an internally mounted General Electric M61A1 20 mm cannon with 650 rounds, which is effective against enemy aircraft and "soft" ground targets. The MIDS Fighter Data Link Terminal, produced by BAE Systems, improves situational awareness and communications capabilities via the Link16 datalink. Since 2004, South Korean firm LIG Nex1 has been manufacturing the F-15's Head-up display; a total number of 150 HUDs were delivered by 2011. LIG Nex1 had been a participant in the F-15K program as a subcontractor to Rockwell Collins. LIG Nex1 is also preparing to manufacture F-15's new multi-function display and flight control computer. Also since 2004, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has produced the wings and forward fuselages of the F-15; in 2008, KAI established another production line for Singapore's F-15SG. KAI is involved in the development and manufacture of the Conformal Weapons Bay (CWB) to be used on the F-15 Silent Eagle.

The F-15E saw action in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 for Operation Desert Shield. The 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron flew to Seeb Air Base in Oman to begin training exercises in anticipation of an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia; in December, the 335th and 336th squadrons relocated to Al Kharj Air Base in Saudi Arabia, closer to Iraq's border.[40] Operation Desert Storm began on 17 January 1991; 24 F-15Es launched an attack upon five fixed Scud installations in western Iraq; missions against Scud sites continued through that night with a second strike consist of 21 F-15Es. At night-time, F-15Es flew hunter missions over western Iraq, searching for mobile SCUD launchers. By conducting random bombings in suspected areas, it was hoped to deter the Iraqis from setting up for a Scud launch.

On the opening night of the war, an F-15E fired a AIM-9 Sidewinder at a MiG-29, which failed to hit its target. Other F-15Es simultaneously and unsuccessfully engaged the lone MiG-29, it was eventually brought down by a missile of unknown source.[42][43] The same night another flight was attacked by a MiG-29. A low altitude engagement ensued and the MiG-29 hit the ground.[citation needed] On 18 January, during a strike against a petrol oil and lubricant plant near Basrah, an F-15E was lost to enemy fire, the pilot and WSO were killed. F-15E crews described this mission as the most difficult and dangerous of the war as it was heavily defended by SA-3s, SA-6s, SA-8s and Rolands as well as by anti-aircraft artillery. Two nights later, a second and final F-15E was downed by an Iraqi SA-2; the crew survived and managed to evade capture for several days and even made in contact with coalition aircraft, but rescue was unable to be launched due to security issues, one airman failed to identify himself with proper codes. The two airmen were later captured by the Iraqis.

Strike Eagles were able to destroy 18 Iraqi jets on the ground at Tallil air base using GBU-12s and CBU-87s. On 14 February, an F-15E scored its only air-to-air kill: a Mil Mi-24 helicopter. While responding to a request for help by US Special Forces, five Iraqi helicopters were spotted. The lead F-15E of two acquired a helicopter via its FLIR in the process of unloading Iraqi soldiers, and released a GBU-10 bomb. The F-15E crew thought the bomb had missed its target and were preparing to use a Sidewinder when the helicopter was destroyed. The Special Forces team estimated that the Hind was roughly 800 feet (240 m) over the ground when the 2,000 lb (910 kg) bomb hit its target. As Coalition bombing operation had commenced, the F-15Es disengaged from combat with the remaining helicopters.

F-15Es attacked various heavily defended targets throughout Iraq, prioritizing SCUD missile sites. Missions with the objective of killing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were undertaken, several suspected locations were bombed by F-15Es. Prior to the operation's ground war phase, F-15Es conducted tank plinking missions against Iraqi vehicles in Kuwait. Following 42 days of heavy combat, a cease fire came into effect on 1 March 1991, leading to the establishment of Northern and Southern no-fly zones over Iraq.

Role Multirole fighter, strike fighter
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas
Boeing Defense, Space & Security
First flight 11 December 1986
Introduction April 1988
Status Active, in production
Primary users United States Air Force
Royal Saudi Air Force
Israeli Air Force
Republic of Korea Air Force
For other users, see operators
Number built 420
Unit cost F-15E: US$31.1 million (flyaway cost, 1998)
F-15K: US$100 million (2006)
Developed from McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
Variants Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2

  • Length: 63.8 ft (19.43 m)

  • Wingspan: 42.8 ft (13.05 m)

  • Height: 18.5 ft (5.63 m)

  • Wing area: 608 ft² (56.5 m²)

  • Airfoil: NACA 64A006.6 root, NACA 64A203 tip

  • Empty weight: 31,700 lb (14,300 kg)

  • Max. takeoff weight: 81,000 lb (36,700 kg)

  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney F100-229 afterburning turbofans, 29,000 lbf (129 kN) each


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph, 2,655+ km/h)

  • Combat radius: 790 mi (687 nmi, 1,270 km)

  • Ferry range: 2,400 mi (2,100 nmi, 3,900 km) with conformal fuel tank and three external fuel tanks

  • Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,200 m)

  • Rate of climb: 50,000+ ft/min (254+ m/s)

  • Thrust/weight: 0.93

  • Maximum g-load: +9 g


  • Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling cannon, 510 rounds of either M-56 or PGU-28 ammunition

  • Hardpoints: 2 wing pylons, fuselage pylons, bomb racks on CFTs with a capacity of 23,000 lb (10,400 kg) of external fuel and ordnance

  • Missiles:

    • Air-to-air missiles:

      • 4× AIM-7 Sparrow

      • 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder

      • 8× AIM-120 AMRAAM

    • Air-to-surface missiles:

      • 6× AGM-65 Maverick

      • 2× AGM-84 Harpoon

      • 2× AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER

      • AGM-130

      • AGM-154 JSOW

      • AGM-158 JASSM

  • Bombs:

    • B61 or B83 nuclear bomb

    • Mark 82 bomb

    • Mark 84 bomb

    • CBU-87 or CBU-103 (CEM)

    • CBU-89 or CBU-104 (GATOR)

    • CBU-97 or CBU-105 (SFW)

    • CBU-107 Passive Attack Weapon

    • GBU-15

    • GBU-10 Paveway II

    • GBU-12 Paveway II

    • GBU-24 Paveway III

    • GBU-27 Paveway III

    • GBU-28 (Bunker buster)

    • GBU-31 or GBU-38 {8 GBU-31's or 16 GBU-38's} (JDAM)

    • GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB)

    • GBU-54 Laser JDAM (LJDAM)

  • Others:

    • up to 3× 600 US gallons (2,300 L) external drop tanks for ferry flight or extended range/loitering time.

    • 1x 1,800 litres (480 US gal) Super cruise drop tank.


  •  Radar:

    • Raytheon AN/APG-70

  • Targeting pods:

    • LANTIRN or Lockheed Martin Sniper XR or LITENING targeting pods

  • Countermeasures:

    • Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems AN/ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures pod

    • Hazeltine AN/APX-76 or Raytheon AN/APX-119 Identify Friend/Foe (IFF) interrogator

    • Magnavox AN/ALQ-128 Electronic Warfare Warning Set (EWWS) – part of Tactical Electronic Warfare Systems (TEWS)

    • Loral AN/ALR-56 Radar warning receivers (RWR) – part of TEWS

    • Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems ALQ-135 Internal Countermeasures System (ICS) – part of TEWS

    • Marconi AN/ALE-45 Chaff/Flares dispenser system – part of TEWS

End notes