The MQ-9 Reaper (originally the Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, and the British Royal Air Force. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.
The MQ-9 is a larger and more capable aircraft than the earlier MQ-1 Predator. It can use MQ-1's ground systems. The MQ-9 has a 950-shaft-horsepower turboprop engine, far more powerful than the Predator's 115 hp (86 kW) piston engine. The increase in power allows the Reaper to carry 15 times more ordnance and cruise at three times the speed of the MQ-1.
In 2008 the New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing began to transition from F-16 piloted planes to MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight, becoming the first all-robot attack squadron.
Then U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley said, "We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper."
As of 2009[update] the U.S. Air Forces fleet stands at 195 Predators and 28 Reapers.
Design and development
With the success of the MQ-1 in combat, General Atomics anticipated the Air Force's desire for an upgraded aircraft and, using its own funds, set about redesigning Predator.
Prototype "Predator B"
General Atomics began development of the Reaper with the "Predator B-001", a proof-of-concept aircraft, which first flew on 2 February 2001. The B-001 was powered by a Garrett AiResearch TPE-331-10T turboprop engine with 950 shp (712 kW). It had a standard Predator airframe, except that the wings were stretched from 48 feet (14.6 m) to 66 feet (20 m). The B-001 had a speed of 220 kts (390 km/h) and could carry a payload of 750 pounds (340 kilograms) to an altitude of 50,000 feet (15.2 kilometers) with an endurance of 30 hours.
GA refined the design, taking it in two separate directions. The first was with a jet-powered version. The "Predator B-002" was fitted with a Williams FJ44-2A turbofan engine with 10.2 kN (2,300 lbf, 1,040 kgf) thrust. It had payload capacity of 475 pounds (215 kilograms), a ceiling of 60,000 feet (18.3 kilometers) and endurance of 12 hours. The U.S. Air Force has ordered two airframes for evaluation, delivered in 2007.
The second was the "Predator B-003", referred to by GA as the "Altair", which has a new airframe with an 84-feet (25.6 m) wingspan and a takeoff weight of about 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms). Like the Predator B-001, it is powered by a TP-331-10T turboprop. This variant has a payload capacity of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms), a maximum ceiling of 52,000 feet (15.8 kilometers), and an endurance of 36 hours.
Air Force version First MQ-9 arrives at Creech AFB, March 2007.
In October 2001, the US Air Force signed a contract with GA to purchase an initial pair of Predator B-003s for evaluation, with follow-up orders for production machines. The first test MQ-9s were delivered to the Air Force in 2002. The name "Altair" did not follow the aircraft into testing, with the Air Force continuing to refer to the system as "Predator B" until it was renamed Reaper ("Altair" instead became the designation for the unarmed NASA version); this is confusing, however, as the manufacturer uses the term to refer to the smaller B-001 prototype.
Operators, stationed at bases such as Creech Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, can hunt for targets and observe terrain using a number of sensors, including a thermal camera. One estimate has the on-board camera able to read a license plate from two miles away. An operator's command takes 1.2 seconds to reach the drone via a satellite link. The MQ-9 is fitted with six stores pylons. The inner stores pylons can carry a maximum of 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) each and allow carriage of external fuel tanks. The mid-wing stores pylons can carry a maximum of 600 pounds (270 kilograms) each, while the outer stores pylons can carry a maximum of 200 pounds (90 kilograms) each. An MQ-9 with two 1,000 pound (450 kilogram) external fuel tanks and a thousand pounds of munitions has an endurance of 42 hours. The Reaper has an endurance of 14 hours when fully loaded with munitions. The MQ-9 carries a variety of weapons including the GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb, the AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles, the AIM-9 Sidewinder. and recently, the GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition). Tests are underway to allow for the addition of the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missile . Air Force believes that the Predator B will give the service an improved "deadly persistence" capability, with the UAV flying over a combat area night and day waiting for a target to present itself. In this role an armed UAV neatly complements piloted strike aircraft. A piloted strike aircraft can be used to drop larger quantities of ordnance on a target while a cheaper UAV can be kept in operation almost continuously, with ground controllers working in shifts, carrying a lighter ordnance load to destroy targets.
By October, 2007 the U.S. Air Force owned nine Reapers, and was expected to decide whether to order full-rate production in 2009. On 18 May 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate of authorization that allows the MQ-1 and MQ-9 aircraft to fly in U.S. civilian airspace to search for survivors of disasters. Requests had been made in 2005 for the aircraft to be used in search and rescue operations following Hurricane Katrina but, because there was no FAA authorization in place at the time, the planes were not used.
In September 2007, the MQ-9 deployed into Iraq at Balad, the largest U.S. air base in Iraq. On 28 October 2007 the Air Force Times reported an MQ-9 had achieved its first "kill", firing a Hellfire missile against "Afghanistan insurgents in the Deh Rawood region of the mountainous Oruzgan province. The strike was 'successful'," the United States Central Command Air Forces said.
Critics have stated that the USAF's insistence on qualified pilots flying UAVs is a bottleneck to expanding their deployment. Air Force Major General William Rew stated on 5 August 2008, "For the way we fly them right now"fully integrated into air operations and often flying missions alongside manned aircraft"we want pilots to fly them." This may be exacerbating losses of Air Force aircraft, in comparison with US Army operations. An MQ-9 taking off in Afghanistan
The typical MQ-9 system consists of multiple aircraft, ground control station, communications equipment and links, maintenance spares, and military (or contractor) personnel. The crew consists of a pilot and sensor operator. To meet combat requirements, the MQ-9 tailors its capabilities using mission kits of various combinations of weapons and sensors payloads. The Raytheon AN/AAS-52 multi-spectral targeting sensor suite includes a color/monochrome daylight TV, infrared, and image-intensified TV with laser rangefinder/target designator to designate targets for laser guided munitions. The Synthetic Aperture Radar system enables GBU-38 JDAM targeting, is capable of very fine resolution in both spotlight and strip modes, and has ground moving target indicator capability.
 Navy version
General Atomics designed a naval version of the Reaper, named the "Mariner", for the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) program requirements. The design would have an increased fuel capacity in order to have an endurance of up to 49 hours. Proposed variations on the ultimate design included one designed for carrier operations with folding wings for carrier storage, shorter and more rugged landing gear, an arresting hook, cut-down or eliminated ventral flight surfaces and six stores pylons with a total load of 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms). The Northrop Grumman RQ-4N was announced the BAMS winner.
The US Customs and Border Protection has ordered a "Maritime Variant" of the MQ-9.
 NASA version NASA version Altair NASA version Ikhana
NASA had initially expressed some interest in a production version of the B-002 turbofan-powered variant, but instead has leased an unarmed version of the Reaper, which carries the GA-ASI company name "Altair". Altair is one of the first 3 "Predator-B" airframes. The other 2 airframes, known as "Predator-B 001" and "Predator-B 002", had a maximum gross weight of 7,500 pounds. Altair differs from these models in that it has an 86-foot (26 m) long wingspan (20 feet greater than early and current MQ-9's). The Altair has enhanced avionics systems to better enable it to fly in FAA-controlled civil airspace and demonstrate "over-the-horizon" command and control capability from a ground station. These aircraft are used by NASA's Earth Science Enterprise as part of the NASA ERAST Program to perform on-location science missions.
In November 2006, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center obtained an MQ-9 from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.. The aircraft has been named Ikhana and its main goal is the Suborbital Science Program within the Science Mission Directorate. NASA also acquired a ground control station in a mobile trailer. This aircraft was used extensively to survey the Southern California wildfires in 2007. The data was used to deploy firefighters to areas of the highest need.
Homeland Security version An MQ-9 of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. UAV Operators at Balad Camp Anaconda, Iraq, April 20, 2005.
The United States Department of Homeland Security initially ordered one Predator B for border patrol duty, referred to as MQ-9 CBP-101. It began operations 4 October 2005, but on 25 April 2006, this aircraft crashed in the Arizona desert. The NTSB determined (Record Identification: CHI06MA121) that the cause of the crash was most likely a pilot error by the aircraft's ground-based pilot in the use of a checklist. During its operational period, the aircraft flew 959 hours on patrol and had a part in 2,309 arrests. It also contributed to the seizure of four vehicles and 8,267 pounds of marijuana. Because of these successes, a second Predator B, called "CBP-104" (initially referred to as "CBP-102"), was delivered in September 2006, and commenced limited border protection operations on 18 October 2006. The program was further expanded on 16 February 2009, including Canadian border patrols where US officials were concerned about the explotation of the border by "drug smugglers, migrants and terrorists".
The CBP-101 was equipped with the Lynx SAR, AX-15 payload, ARC-210 radios, and other sensors and communications equipment; CBP-104 was enhanced with Ku band satellite command and control link and MTS-A EO/IR sensors.
The Presidents FY 2006 Emergency Supplemental budget request added $45 million for the Predator B program, and the FY 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill adds an additional $20 million. In October 2006, GA-ASI announced a $33.9 million contract to supply two more Predator B systems by Fall 2007.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has Six operational MQ-9s. One based in North Dakota, at the UAS Operations Center in Grand Forks, four in Arizona, at the UAS Operations Center in Sierra Vista and one based at Fort Drum, N.Y. The aircraft are equipped with GA-ASI's Lynx Synthetic Aperture Radar (Lynx SAR info/web page) and Raytheon's MTS-B ElectroOptical/Infrared sensors.
 International versions
In September 2006, the General Atomics Mariner demonstrator aircraft was operated by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) in an exercise designed to evaluate the aircraft's ability to aid in efforts to stem illegal fishing, drug running and illegal immigration. The Mariner operated from RAAF bases Edinburgh, South Australia and Learmonth, Western Australia in conjunction with a Royal Australian Navy Armidale class patrol boat, the Joint Offshore Protection Command and the Pilbara Regiment.
On 27 September 2006, the U.S. Congress was notified by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency that the United Kingdom was seeking to purchase a pair of MQ-9 Reapers. They are operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF out of Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. A third MQ-9 is in the process of being purchased by the RAF.
On 9 November 2007, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that its MQ-9 Reapers had begun operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban. On 4 January 2008 it became public that the United Kingdom wants to purchase a further 10 MQ-9 Reapers, giving the Royal Air Force a total fleet of 13 Reaper UAVs.
In April 2008, British special forces were forced to destroy one of the two Reapers operating in Afghanistan to prevent sensitive material falling into the hands of the Taliban after it crash landed.
Germany has made a request to purchase five Reapers and four ground control stations, plus related support material and training. The request, being made through the Foreign Military Sales process, was presented to Congress through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on 1 August 2008 and is valued at US$205 million.
On August 1, 2008, Italy submitted a FMS request through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency for four aircraft, four ground stations and five years of maintenance support, all valued at US$330 million.
Operational history This article may contain an inappropriate mixture of prose and timeline. Please help convert this timeline into prose or, if necessary, a list.
* The California Office of Emergency Services requested NASA support for the Esperanza Fire, and in under 24 hours the General Atomics Altair (NASA variant of the Predator B) was launched on a 16 hour mission to map the perimeter of the fire. The Altair had just returned from a test mission a day before the Esperanza Fire started. The fire mapping research is a joint project with NASA and the US Forest Service. * On 25 April 2006, an MQ-9 operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection crashed near Nogales, Arizona. The pilot, remotely operating the vehicle from Sierra Vista Municipal Airport, reported a momentary lockup of the displays on the primary control console. The pilot switched control to a secondary console, and in doing so inadvertently shut down the vehicle's engine, causing it to descend out of reach of communications and ultimately crash. * On 1 May 2007, the 432d Wing of the United States Air Force was activated to operate MQ-9 Reaper as well as MQ-1 Predator UAVs at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The pilots first flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in the summer of 2007.
* As of October 2007 the USAF is flying operational missions in Afghanistan. As of 6 March 2008, according to USAF Lieutenant General Gary North, the Reaper has attacked 16 targets in Afghanistan using 500-lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. On 4 February 2008 the Reaper dropped a bomb on a truck carrying an insurgent mortar and team near Kandahar.
* On July 17, 2008, the Air Force began flying Reaper missions within Iraq from Balad Air Base.
* It was reported on August 11, 2008 that the 174th Fighter Wing of the USAF will consist entirely of Reapers.
* By March 2009 the Air Force had 28 operational Reapers. Operators
* Aeronautica Militare
* Turkish Air Force (Turkey initially ordered 4 aircraft and 3 command centers)
* Royal Air Force o No. 39 Squadron RAF
* United States Air Force o Air Combat Command + 432d Air Expeditionary Wing - Creech Air Force Base, Nevada # 30th Reconnaissance Squadron - Tonopah Test Range Airport # 19th Attack Squadron # 42d Attack Squadron o Air Force Materiel Command + # 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron - Creech Air Force Base, Nevada o Air Force Special Operations Command + 1st Special Operations Wing # 3d Special Operations Squadron - Creech Air Force Base, Nevada o Air National Guard + 174th Fighter Wing - Hancock Field, New York * U.S. Customs and Border Protection o Sierra Vista, Arizona o Grand Forks, North Dakota
Several minor variations of the RQ-9/MQ-9 exist; these values are indicative.
* Contractor: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated * Crew(remote): 2 (Pilot plus a sensor operator) * Landing Type: runway * Launch Type: runway * Power Plant: Honeywell TP331-10T turboprop engine, 950 SHP (712 kW) * Fuel Capacity: 1815 kg (4,000 lb) * Length: 10.9728 m (36 ft) * Wingspan: 20.1168 m (66 ft) * Height: 3.8 m (12.5 ft) * Empty weight: 2223 kg (4,900 lb) * Max takeoff weight: 4760 kg (10,500 lb)
* Service ceiling: 15 km (50,000 ft) * Operational altitude: 7.5 km (25,000 ft)  * Endurance: 1428 hours (14 hours fully loaded)  * Range: 5,926 km (3,200 nmi, 3,682 mi) * Payload: 3,800 lb (1,700 kg) o Internal: 800 lb (360 kg) o External: 3,000 lb (1,400 kg) * Maximum speed: 482 km/h (300 mph, 260 knots) * Cruise speed: 276-313 km/h (172-195 mph, 150-170 knots) 
* AN/APY-8 Lynx II radar * AN/DAS-1 MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System 
* 6 Hardpoints o 1,500 lb (680 kg) on the two inboard weapons stations o 500600 lb (230270 kg) on the two middle stations o 150200 lb (6891 kg) on the outboard stations
* Up to 14x AGM-114 Hellfire air to ground missiles can be carried or four Hellfire missiles and two 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. The 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) can also be carried. Testing is underway to support the operation of the AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missile.
This is for an online flag contest on Reddit's Vexillology sub forum entitled:
THIS MONTH'S THEME: Earth and the Environment - Take that as you will. Perhaps a flag to represent us to alien ambassadors? Perhaps something to rally the conservation movement? Perhaps just a flag to say "we're all people on a sphere in space, let's get along."
The symbolism of the flag goes as follows. A United Earth rests in the above center of the flag. Not in the exact center but slightly above to show movement skywards. The color is gold so show how valuable and precious the planet and all it's land is. No hemisphere is predominant, rather all continents are shown centered on the Prime Meridian. I preferred this projection over the Polar Projection the UN flag uses because I wanted no to use any of its symbolism. The globe of the Earth rest on/ is cradled by a fiery Phoenix that carries it on its shoulders and wings but is no longer touched by its fire. This is the most obvious symbol of a "reborn" united world that came out of the ashes of some major event. The thick bands behind denote the white plumes of rocket exhaust, forcing the eye to move skyward on a dark blue background. The same color as if the viewer were following the launch of a rocket into the Wild Blue Yonder. The Latin motto "AD ASTRA PER ASPERA" is an often copied motto meaning "To the stars through adversity"... adversity being the fiery phoenix event that marked the beginning of this new unified world and common destiny.
THE UNTHINKABLE HAS HAPPENED These United States, has balkanized beyond recognition. Either by some circumstance, by war, disagreement, or peaceful means, new national entities are carved up through unique situations, allying with some or in conflict with others.
The 31-state United States of America is still a viable regional power, but a far cry from the superpower and cultural hegemony of it's predecessor, bearing a dim resemblance in name and flag only. The Divided States of America is a staple in alternate and speculative history, though there have been dangerously close calls.
The states that were once the US of A, in spite of the circumstances of breaking up, declare themselves the successor to it, it's values, influence and culture. Yes, even their constitution and regional partitions are modeled after their Federal father, albeit with a twist.
With regards to the nature of relationships between the "children of America", there are three power blocs or alliances that constitute these relationships; the Union Bloc, The Southern Alliance and the Pacific Social Democratic Cooperation.
The Union bloc, led by Washington DC, favors mutual cooperation between them and the territories that they 'let go'. The Southern Alliance is an on-again, off-again agreement between the conservative CSA and New Africa. We can say they are vitriolic best buds. The PSDC led by California, aims to promote, develop and innovate ideas of liberalism, socialism and social democracy.
Conflicts do arise in these divided states. For one, Texas and Aztlan cannot agree on the control of West Texas, while Deseret is in open conflict with Cascadia over a part of former Idaho.
The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. The Eagle's air superiority is achieved through a mixture of maneuverability and acceleration, range, weapons and avionics. The F-15 has electronic systems and weaponry to detect, acquire, track and attack enemy aircraft while operating in friendly or enemy-controlled airspace. Its weapons and flight control systems are designed so one person can safely and effectively perform air-to-air combat. It can penetrate enemy defense and outperform and outfight current or projected enemy aircraft.
The F-15's superior maneuverability and acceleration are achieved through high engine thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing loading. Low wing-loading (the ratio of aircraft weight to its wing area) is a vital factor in maneuverability and, combined with the high thrust-to-weight ratio, enables the aircraft to turn tightly without losing airspeed.
A multimission avionics system sets the F-15 apart from other fighter aircraft. It includes a head-up display, advanced radar, inertial navigation system, flight instruments, UHF communications, tactical navigation system and instrument landing system. It also has an internally mounted, tactical electronic-warfare system, "identification friend or foe" system, electronic countermeasures set and a central digital computer.
Through an on-going multistage improvement program the F-15 is receiving extensive upgrade involving the installation or modification of new and existing avionics equipment to enhance the tactical capabilities of the F-15.
The head-up display projects on the windscreen all essential flight information gathered by the integrated avionics system. This display, visible in any light condition, provides the pilot information necessary to track and destroy an enemy aircraft without having to look down at cockpit instruments.
The F-15's versatile pulse-Doppler radar system can look up at high-flying targets and down at low-flying targets without being confused by ground clutter. It can detect and track aircraft and small high-speed targets at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to tree-top level. The radar feeds target information into the central computer for effective weapons delivery. For close-in dog fights, the radar automatically acquires enemy aircraft, and this information is projected on the head-up display.
The APG-63 radar was developed over 20 years ago and has an average mean time between failure less than 15 hours. APG-63 LRUs have become increasingly difficult to support both in the field and at the depot. First, individual parts have become increasingly unavailable from any source; incorporating newer technology parts often entails module redesign and fails to address the root cause. Second, continuing reliability deterioration impacts both sustainment, particularly during deployment, as well as ACCs ability to implement two-level maintenance. In addition, the APG-63 radar has virtually no remaining processing and memory capacity to accommodate software upgrades to counter evolving threats. The APG-63(V)1 radar has been designed for improved reliability and maintainability to address user requirements. The radar incorporates components designed for improved reliability and lower failure rates and enhanced diagnostics for improved fault detection and fault isolation. Along with other design features, these should improve radar reliability to 120 hours MTBM, an order of magnitude better than the existing APG-63.
An inertial navigation system enables the Eagle to navigate anywhere in the world. It gives aircraft position at all times as well as pitch, roll, heading, acceleration and speed information.
The F-15's electronic warfare system provides both threat warning and automatic countermeasures against selected threats. The "identification friend or foe" system informs the pilot if an aircraft seen visually or on radar is friendly. It also informs U.S. or allied ground stations and other suitably equipped aircraft that the F-15 is a friendly aircraft.
The Fiber Optic Towed Decoy (FOTD) provides aircraft protection against modern radar-guided missiles to supplement traditional radar jamming equipment. The device is towed at varying distances behind the aircraft while transmitting a signal like that of a threat radar. The missile will detect and lock onto the decoy rather than on the aircraft. This is achieved by making the decoys radiated signal stronger than that of the aircraft.
A variety of air-to-air weaponry can be carried by the F-15. An automated weapon system enables the pilot to perform aerial combat safely and effectively, using the head-up display and the avionics and weapons controls located on the engine throttles or control stick. When the pilot changes from one weapon system to another, visual guidance for the required weapon automatically appears on the head-up display.
The Eagle can be armed with combinations of four different air-to-air weapons: AIM-7F/M Sparrow missiles or AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles on its lower fuselage corners, AIM-9L/M Sidewinder or AIM-120 missiles on two pylons under the wings, and an internal 20mm Gatling gun (with 940 rounds of ammunition) in the right wing root.
The current AIM-9 missile does not have the capabilities demonstrated by foreign technologies, giving the F-15 a distinct disadvantage during IR dogfight scenarios. AIM-9X integration will once again put the F-15 in the air superiority position in all arenas. The F-15/AIM-9X weapon system is to consist of F-15 carriage of the AIM-9X missile on a LAU-128 Air-to-Air (A/A) launcher from existing AIM-9 certified stations. The AIM-9X will be an upgrade to the AIM-9L/M, incorporating increased missile maneuverability and allowing a high off-boresight targeting capability.
Low-drag, conformal fuel tanks were especially developed for the F-15C and D models. Conformal fuel tanks can be attached to the sides of the engine air intake trunks under each wing and are designed to the same load factors and airspeed limits as the basic aircraft. Each conformal fuel tank contains about 114 cubic feet of usable space. These tanks reduce the need for in-flight refueling on global missions and increase time in the combat area. All external stations for munitions remain available with the tanks in use. AIM-7F/M Sparrow and AIM-120 missiles, moreover, can be attached to the corners of the conformal fuel tanks.
The F-15 Eagle began its life in the mid 1960s as the Fighter Experimental (FX) concept. Using lessons learned in Vietnam, the USAF sought to develop and procure a new, dedicated air superiority fighter. Such an aircraft was desperately needed, as no USAF aircraft design solely conceived as an air superiority fighter had become reality since the F-86 Sabre. The intervening twenty years saw a number of aircraft performing the air-to-air role as a small part of their overall mission, such as the primarily air-to-ground F-4 Phantom and the F-102, F-104 and F-106 interceptor designs. The result of the FX study was a requirement for a fighter design combining unparalleled maneuverability with state-of-the-art avionics and weaponry. An industry-wide competition ended on December 23, 1969 when McDonnell Douglas was awarded the contract for the F-15.
* The first F-15A flight was made on 27 July 1972, culminating one of the most successful aircraft development and procurement programs in Air Force history. After an accident-free test and evaluation period, the first aircraft was delivered to the Air Force on Novermber 14, 1974. In January 1976, the first Eagle destined for a combat squadron was delivered to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Three hundred and sixty-five F-15As were built before production of the F-15C began in 1978. In January 1982, the 48th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Langley Air Force Base became the first Air Force air defense squadron to transition to the F-15. After twenty years of service, the F-15A has recently been reassigned from active duty Air Force fighter squadrons to Air National Guard units. The F-15A is flown by Air National Guard squadrons in the states of Oregon, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Massachussets. * The first flight of the two-seat F-15B (formerly TF-15A) trainer was made in July 1973. The first F-15B Eagle was delivered in November 1974 to the 58th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., where pilot training was accomplished in both F-15A and B aircraft. The F-15B incorporates a tandem seating configuration, with a second crewmember position aft of the pilot's seat. The primary purpose of the F-15B is aircrew training, with an instructor pilot occupying the rear seat while an upgrading pilot mans the front seat controls. The rear seat pilot has a full set of flight controls and can fly the aircraft throughout the envelope, including takeoff and landing. Even though space is sacrificed to accomodate the second crew member, the F-15B retains the same warfighting capability as the F-15A. In keeping with the trainer concept, however, the rear seat is not equipped with controls for the combat avionics and weaponry. In fact, the rear seat is not a mandatory crew position, and F-15Bs are often flown with empty rear cockpits. * The F-15C is an improved version of the original F-15A single-seat air superiority fighter. Additions incorporated in the F-15C include upgrades to avionics as well as increased internal fuel capacity and a higher allowable gross takeoff weight. The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory beginning in 1979. Kadena Air Base, Japan, received the first F-15C in September 1979. These new models have Production Eagle Package (PEP 2000) improvements, including 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of additional internal fuel, provision for carrying exterior conformal fuel tanks and increased maximum takeoff weight of up to 68,000 pounds (30,600 kilograms). Externally, the differences between the F-15A and F-15C are so slight as to make identification difficult; the only reliable indicator is the aircraft serial number. All F-15As have tail numbers starting with 73- through 77-, while F-15Cs have tail numbers beginning with 78- through 86-. The F-15C is the Air Force's primary air superiority fighter, serving with active duty units at Langley AFB, VA, Eglin AFB, FL, Mountain Home AFB, ID, Elmendorf AFB, AK, Tyndall AFB, FL, Nellis AFB, NV, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, Lakenheath AB, England and Kadena AB, Okinawa. The operational F-15C force structure is approximately 300 aircraft assigned to operational units. In the mid-1990s the F-15C experienced declining reliability indicators, primarily from three subsystems: radar, engines, and secondary structures. A complete retrofit of all three subsystems could be done for less than $3 billion. * The F-15D is a two-seat variant of the single-place F-15C. The primary purpose of the F-15D is aircrew training, with an instructor pilot occupying the rear seat while an upgrading pilot mans the front seat controls.
F-15C's, D's and E's were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm where they proved their superior combat capability with a confirmed 26:0 kill ratio.
The F-15C has an air combat victory ratio of 95-0 making it one of the most effective air superiority aircraft ever developed. The US Air Force claims the F-15C is in several respects inferior to, or at best equal to, the MiG-29, Su-27, Su-35/37, Rafale, and EF-2000, which are variously superior in acceleration, maneuverability, engine thrust, rate of climb, avionics, firepower, radar signature, or range. Although the F-15C and Su-27P series are similar in many categories, the Su-27 can outperform the F-15C at both long and short ranges. In long-range encounters, with its superiorr radar the Su-27 can launch a missile before the F-15C does, so from a purely kinematic standpoint, the Russian fighters outperform the F-15C in the beyond-visual-range fight. The Su-35 phased array radar is superior to the APG-63 Doppler radar in both detection range and tracking capabilities. Additionally, the Su-35 propulsion system increases the aircrafts maneuverability with thrust vectoring nozzles. Simulations conducted by British Aerospace and the British Defense Research Agency compared the effectiveness of the F-15C, Rafale, EF-2000, and F-22 against the Russian Su-35 armed with active radar missiles similar to the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The Rafale achieved a 1:1 kill ratio (1 Su-35 destroyed for each Rafale lost). The EF-2000 kill ratio was 4.5:1 while the F-22 achieved a ratio of 10:1. In stark contrast was the F-15C, losing 1.3 Eagles for each Su-35 destroyed. F-15E Strike Eagle
Although the slogan of the F-15's original design team was "Not a pound for air-to-ground," the F-15 has long been recognized as having superior potential in the ground attack role. In 1987 this potential was realized in the form of the F-15E Strike Eagle. The mission of the Strike Eagle is as succinct as that of its air-to-air cousin: to put bombs on target. The F-15E is especially configured for the deep strike mission, venturing far behind enemy lines to attack high value targets with a variety of munitions. The Strike Eagle accomplishes this mission by expanding on the capabilities of the air superiority F-15, adding a rear seat WSO (Weapon Systems Operator) crewmember and incorporating an entirely new suite of air-to-ground avionics.
The F-15E is a two seat, two engine dual role fighter capable of speeds up to MACH 2.5. The F-15E performs day and night all weather air-to-air and air-to-ground missions including strategic strike, interdiction, OCA and DCA. Although primarily a deep interdiction platform, the F-15E can also perform CAS and Escort missions. Strike Eagles are equipped with LANTIRN, enhancing night PGM delivery capability. The F-15E outbord and inboard wing stations and the centerline can be load with various armament. The outboard wing hardpoint are unable to carry heavy loads and are assign for ECM pods. The other hardpoints can be employed for various loads but with the use of multiple ejection racks (MERs). Each MER can hold six Mk-82 bombs or "Snakeye" retarded bombs, or six Mk 20 "Rockeye" dispensers, four CBU-52B, CBU- 58B, or CBU-71B dispensers, a single Mk-84 (907 kg) bomb F- 15E can carry also "smart" weapons, CBU-10 laser quided bomb based on the Mk 84 bomb, CBU-12, CBU-15, or another, laser, electro-optical, or infra-red guided bomb (including AGM-G5 "Marerick" air-to-ground) missiles.
Conformal Fuel Tanks were introduced with the F-15C in order to extend the range of the aircraft. The CFTs are carried in pairs and fit closely to the side of the aircraft, with one CFT underneath each wing. By designing the CFT to minimize the effect on aircraft aerodynamics, much lower drag results than if a similar amount of fuel is carried in conventional external fuel tanks. This lower drag translate directly into longer aircraft ranges, a particularly desirable characteristic of a deep strike fighter like the F-15E. As with any system, the use of CFTs on F-15s involves some compromise. The weight and drag of the CFTs (even when empty) degrades aircraft performance when compared to external fuel tanks, which can be jettisoned when needed (CFTs are not jettisonable and can only be downloaded by maintenance crews). As a result, CFTs are typically used in situations where increased range offsets any performance drawbacks. In the case of the F-15E, CFTs allow air-to-ground munitions to be loaded on stations which would otherwise carry external fuel tanks. In general, CFT usage is the norm for F15Es and the exception for F-15C/D's.
The F-15E Strike Eagles tactical electronic warfare system [TEWS] is an integrated countermeasures system. Radar, radar jammer, warning receiver and chaff/flare dispenser all work together to detect, identify and counter threats posed by an enemy. For example, if the warning receiver detects a threat before the radar jammer, the warning receiver will inform the jammer of the threat. A Strike Eagles TEWS can jam radar systems operating in high frequencies, such as radar used by short-range surface-to-air missiles, antiaircraft artillery and airborne threats. Current improvements to TEWS will enhance the aircrafts ability to jam enemy radar systems. The addition of new hardware and software, known as Band 1.5, will round out the TEWS capability by jamming threats in mid-to-low frequencies, such as long-range radar systems. The equipment is expected to go into full production sometime in late 1999.
The Defense Department plans to sustain production of the F-15E for at least two more years, purchasing three aircraft in both FY 1998 and FY 1999. Without FY 1998 procurement, the F-15 production line would begin to close in the absence of new foreign sales. These six additional aircraft, together with the six aircraft approved by Congress in FY 1997, will sustain the present 132-plane combat force structure until about FY 2016. Under current plans by 2030, the last F-15C/D models will have been phased out of the inventory and replaced by the F-22. Service Life
Designed in the 1960s and built in the 1970s, the F-15A - D aircraft has now been in service for over twenty years. While the Eagle's aerodynamics and maneuverability are still on a par with newer aircraft, quantum leaps in integrated circuit technology have made the original F-15 avionics suite obsolete. The objective of the Multi-Stage Improvement Program (MSIP) was to set the Eagle in step with today's vastly improved information processing systems. Some F-15C/D aircraft (tail numbers 84-001 and higher) came off the assembly line with MSIP in place. All F-15A/B/C/D aircraft produced before 84-001 will receive the MSIP retrofit at the F-15 depot. Improvements incorporated via MSIP vary between F-15A/B and F-15C/D aircraft; the C/D MSIP has been completed. However, all air-to-air Eagles gain improved radar, central computer, weapons and fire control, and threat warning systems.
The purpose of the F-15 Multi-stage Improvement Program (MSIP) was to provide maximum air superiority in a dense hostile environment in the late 1990s and beyond. All total, 427 Eagles received the new avionics upgrades. Along with later model production aircraft, these retrofitted aircraft would provide the Combat Air Forces (CAF) with a total MSIP fleet of 526 aircraft. The MSIP upgraded the capabilities of the F-15 aircraft to included a MIL-STD-1760 aircraft/weapons standard electrical interface bus to provide the digital technology needed to support new and modern weapon systems like AMRAAM. The upgrade also incorporated a MIL-STD-1553 digital command/response time division data bus that would enable onboard systems to communicate and to work with each other. A new central computer with significantly improved processing speed and memory capacity upgraded the F-15 from 70s to 90s technology, adding capacity needed to support new radar and other systems. The original Eagle had less computer capacity than a 1990s car. Some of the work prefaced the addition of the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, adding space, power, and cooling that would allow the new avionics to run in the harsh environments in which the Eagle operates. The new programmable armament control set (PACS) with a multi-purpose color display (MPCD) for expanded weapons control, monitoring, and release capabilities featured a modern touch screen that allowed the pilot to talk to his weapons. A data transfer module (DTM) set provided pre-programmed information that customized the jet to fly the route the pilot had planned using mission planning computers. An upgrade to the APG-63 Radar for multiple target detection, improved electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) characteristics, and non-cooperative target recognition capability enabled the pilot to identify and target enemy aircraft before he was detected or before the enemy could employ his weapons. An upgrade of the advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM), that carried up to eight missiles, represented an improvement that complimented the combat-proven AIM-7 Sparrow by giving the pilot capability to engage multiple targets to launch and leave, targeting and destroying enemy fighters before they could pose a threat. The upgraded Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and an enhanced internal countermeasures set (ICS) on F-15C/D models improved threat detection and self-protection radar jamming capability that allowed pilots to react to threat and to maneuver to break the lock of enemy missiles.
The F-15 initial operational requirement was for a service life of 4,000 hours. Testing completed in 1973 demonstrated that the F-15 could sustain 16,000 hours of flight. Subsequently operational use was more severely stressful than the original design specification. With an average usage of 270 aircraft flight hours per year, by the early 1990s the F-15C fleet was approaching its service-design-life limit of 4,000 flight hours. Following successful airframe structural testing, the F-15C was extended to an 8,000-hour service life limit. An 8,000-hour service limit provides current levels of F-15Cs through 2010. The F-22 program was initially justified on the basis of an 8,000 flight hour life projection for the F-15. This was consistent with the projected lifespan of the most severely stressed F-15Cs, which have averaged 85% of flight hours in stressful air-to-air missions, versus the 48% in the original design specification.
Full-scale fatigue testing between 1988 and 1994 ended with a demonstration of over 7,600 flight hours for the most severely used aircraft, and in excess of 12,000 hours on the remainder of the fleet. A 10,000-hour service limit would provide F-15Cs to 2020, while a 12,000-hour service life extends the F-15Cs to the year 2030. The APG-63 radar, F100-PW-100 engines, and structure upgrades are mandatory. The USAF cannot expect to fly the F-15C to 2014, or beyond, without replacing these subsystems. The total cost of the three retrofits would be under $3 billion. The upgrades would dramatically reduce the 18 percent breakrate prevalent in the mid-1990s, and extend the F-15C service life well beyond 2014.
The F-15E structure is rated at 16,000 flight hours, double the lifetime of earlier F-15s. Foreign Military Sales
The Eagle has been chosen by three foreign military customers to modernize their air forces. Japan has purchased and produces an air-to-air F-15 known as the F-15J. Israel has bought F-15A, B, and D aircraft from USAF inventories and is currently obtaining an air-to-ground version called the F-15I. Similarly, Saudi Arabia has purchased F-15C and D aircraft and acquired the air-to-ground F-15S. F-15I Thunder
Israel has bought F-15A, B, and D aircraft from USAF inventories and is currently obtaining an air-to-ground version called the F-15I. The two seat F-15I, known as the Thunder in Israel, incorporates new and unique weapons, avionics, electronic warfare, and communications capabilities that make it one of the most advanced F-15s. The F-15I, like the US Air Force's F-15E Strike Eagle, is a dual-role fighter that combines long-range interdiction with the Eagle's air superiority capabilities. All aircraft are to be configured with either the F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 engines by direct commercial sale; Night Vision Goggle compatible cockpits; an Elbit display and sight helmet (DASH) system; conformal fuel tanks; and the capability to employ the AIM-120, AIM-7, AIM-9, and a wide variety of air-to-surface munitions.
F-15 production, which began in 1972, has been extended into 1999 by orders F-151 aircraft for Israel. Israel selected the F-15I in January, 1994 after evaluating a variety of aircraft to meet its defense needs. The government of Israel initially ordered 25 F-15I Thunders, powered by two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 low bypass turbofan engine. This foreign military sale was valued at $1.76 billion dollars. The Israeli Air Force received the first two of 25 F-15I aircraft in January 1998. On 22 September 1998 the US Department of Defense announced the sale to the Government of Israel of 30 F-15I aircraft; 30 AN/APG-70 or AN/APG-63(V)1 radar; and 30 each LANTIRN navigation and targeting pods. Associated support equipment, software development/integration, spares and repair parts, flight test instrumentation, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, US Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related requirements to ensure full program supportability will also be provided. The estimated cost was $2.5 billion. F-15S Peace Sun IX
F-15 production has been extended into 1999 by orders for 72 F-15S aircraft for Saudi Arabia. Peace Sun IX is an F-15 Foreign Military Sales production program, with development, to deliver 72 F-15S aircraft including support equipment, spares, and training to the Royal Saudi government. Saudi Arabia has purchased a total of 62 F-15C and D aircraft and later procured the F-15S, which is a two-seater aircraft based on the F-15E airframe, with downgraded avionics, downgraded LANTIRN pods, and a simplified Hughes APG-70 radar without computerised radar mapping. Four F-15S Eagles were delivered in 1995. On 10 November 1999 the last of 72 F-15S aircraft was delivered to Saudi Arabia. In November 1995 Saudi Arabia purchased 556 GBU-15 Guided Bomb Units (including six training units), 48 data link pods, personnel training and training equipment and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $371 million. Saudi Arabia would use the GBU-15s to enhance the stand off attack capability of the F-15S aircraft. F-15J Peace Eagle Japan has purchased and produced a total of 223 air-to-air F-15 known as the F-15J, assembled in Japan from largely indigenously manufactured sub-assemblies and equipment. The Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle is the principal air superiority fighter operated by the JASDF. These differ from the F-15C/D with the deletion of sensitive ECM, radar warning, and nuclear delivery equipment. The AN/ALQ-135 is replaced by indigenous J/ALQ-8 and the AN/ALR-56 RHAWS is replaced by J/APR-4.
Specifications Primary Function Tactical fighter. Contractor McDonnell Douglas Corp. Power Plant Two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners. Thrust (C/D models) 25,000 pounds each engine ( 11,250 kilograms). Length 63 feet, 9 inches (19.43 meters). Height 18 feet, 8 inches (5.69 meters). Wingspan 42 feet, 10 inches (13.06 meters) Speed 1,875 mph (Mach 2.5-plus) at 45,000 ft. Ceiling 65,000 feet (19,697 meters). Maximum Takeoff Weight (C/D models) 68,000 pounds (30,600 kilograms). Range 3,450 miles (3,000 nautical miles) ferry range with conformal fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks. Armament 1 - M-61A1 20mm multibarrel internal gun, 940 rounds of ammunition 4 - AIM-9L/M Sidewinder and 4 - AIM-7F/M Sparrow missiles, or combination of AIM-9L/M, AIM-7-F/M and AIM-120 missiles. F-15C Weapon Loads AIM AIM AIM AGM 20 7 9 120 88 MM 4 4
900 4 2 2 900 2 2 4 900 4 4 4 900
4 4 4 900
8 900 F-15E Weapon Loads
12 CBU-52 (6 with wing tanks) 12 CBU-59 (6 with wing tanks) 12 CBU-71 (6 with wing tanks) 12 CBU-87 (6 with wing tanks) 12 CBU-89 (6 with wing tanks) 20 MK-20 (6 with wing tanks)
# AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack # AN/AXQ-14 Data Link System # LANTIRN Crew F-15A/C: one. F-15B/D: two. Unit cost $FY98 [Total Program] $43 million. Date Deployed July 1972 Production [for USAF] 360 F-15A/B 408 F-15C 61 F-15D 203 F-15E Total Inventory 275 F-15A/B 410 F-15C/D 203 F-15E
Approximately 100 F-15s are in storage @ AMARC PMAI Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory 45 F-15A/B Air National Guard Air Defense Force 45 F-15A/B Air National Guard 126 F-15C/D Air Combat Command 90 F-15C/D Pacific Air Forces 36 F-15C/D US Air Forces Europe 342 F-15A/C TOTAL
66 F-15E Air Combat Command 18 F-15E Pacific Air Forces 48 F-15E US Air Forces Europe 132 F-15E TOTAL
Only combat-coded aircraft and not development/ test, attrition reserve, depot maintenance, or training aircraft.