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U.S. Air Force celebrates 50 years of F-15 flight

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Past and present members of the F-15 Program Office, retired F-15 pilots, representatives from The Boeing Co., and senior Air Force leaders gathered in a hangar at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on July 28, to celebrate, share stories and mark the fiftieth anniversary of the F-15’s first flight.

“It’s awesome being here today, representing all the men, women and Airmen, past and present, who have contributed to such magnitude to the mighty F-15,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “The program’s objectives were clear at the first flight in 1972. We knew exactly what we had to do and how we were going to do it – the revolutionary design, maneuverability, big engines, big radar, and the ability to go higher and faster than anything else in the sky.  We set out to design the world’s greatest air-to air fighter and we truly did succeed.”

Also at the ceremony to provide the keynote address was retired Col. Cesar Rodriguez, a decorated F-15 pilot who shot down two MiGs during the Gulf War in 1991 and another over Kosovo in 1998 – the most MiG kills by an American pilot since the Vietnam War.

Deb McConnaughey, currently a program manager in the Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate’s F-15 Program Office, was a clerk in the office during the Eagle’s first flight.

“When the aircraft first flight took place in 1972, there were a lot of us [at Wright-Patterson AFB] gathered around conference room phones, with no visuals, listening to all the dialogue between the control tower and the cockpit with associated static in the background – it was a very exciting time,” said McConnaughey. “A lot of brilliant minds developed the F-15, without the aid of any computer. I mean this was completely designed without the aid of technology – all brain power. For the aircraft to be dominant for so long says a lot about the talent we have in the Air Force.”

Over the past fifty years, the F-15 has flown more than 3.8 million flight hours and has been present at key moments in American history from the Cold War to Operation Inherent Resolve.

“During the Cold War, the F-15 was the ultimate cold warrior, and it carried the heavy load,” said White. “The F-15 faced down the Warsaw Pact [countries] across the Fulda Gap, and routinely intercepted Soviet bombers off the coast of Iceland and Alaska.”

The aircraft’s success now extends to foreign military partners, with six nations including Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, and Qatar operating the jet.
Over the years, the F-15 Program Office has led numerous sustainment and modification initiatives to keep the Eagle relevant and in the fight, including installation of the Active Electronic Scanned Array radar and an upgraded electronic warfare system known as the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System.

Most recently, the program office is leading the effort to test and field the F-15EX, which will replace F-15C/D models and refresh the Eagle fleet.

“Long live the Eagle!” added McConnaughey.  “We’re truly a family in the F-15 Program. We work together, play together and we support each other. I’ve been privileged to be assigned to this premier platform.”