The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, high performance, all-weather air superiority fighter. First flown in July 1972, the Eagle entered U.S. Air Force inventory in November 1974. It was the first U.S. fighter to have engine thrust greater than the normal weight of the aircraft, allowing it to accelerate while in a vertical climb. This, combined with low aircraft weight to wing area, makes the Eagle very highly maneuverable. The Eagle was produced in both single-seat and two-seat versions.
The museum’s single-seat F15A, nicknamed “Streak Eagle,” broke eight time-to-climb world records between Jan. 16 and Feb. 1, 1975. In setting the last of the eight records, it reached an altitude of 98,425 feet just 3 minutes, 27.8 seconds from brake release at takeoff and “coasted” to nearly 103,000 feet before descending. It was flown in its natural metal finish to reduce weight for the record-setting flights. To protect it from corrosion, McDonnell Douglas Corp. has since painted it in the gray color scheme of most operational F-15s.
“Streak Eagle” is an early preproduction aircraft. Differences in internal structure and systems operation made it too costly to return to operational service. It was delivered to the museum in December 1980 after it was no longer useful as a flight test vehicle.
The following video tells the story of F-15 Streak Eagle record flights:
McDonnell Douglas F-15 Streak Eagle time-to-climb world records details:
Developed to be the best air superiority fighter in the world, the F-15 proved to be also a very useful testbed aircraft. One of the Eagle’s most interesting experimental programs involved the 19th pre-production aircraft, the airframe 72-0119.
This F-15A was called “Streak Eagle” and its name reflected very well the kind of flights that the aircraft would have been performed: in fact, its purpose was to establish new time-to-climb records, improving those held by the F-4 and MiG-25.
To perform this mission the Streak Eagle was heavily modified reducing its weight as much as possible.
In fact, as explained by Steve Markman and Bill Holder in their book One Of A Kind Research Aircraft A History Of In-Flight Simulators, Testbeds & Prototypes, from this F-15 were removed all unnecessary items, such as missiles, radar, cannon, tail hook, one generator, utility hydraulic system, flap and speed brake actuators while another 40 pounds were gained by not painting the aircraft.
Several instrumentations were also installed in the aircraft, such as a restraint device that replaced the tailhook, and a nose boom with alpha and beta probes to determine the angle of attack and sideslip coupled with special battery packs and controls. Other special tools were an over the shoulder camera, a G-meter, a standby attitude gyro, equipment for verifying altitude, and ballast.
With these modifications, the Streak Eagle saved 2,800 pounds while the fuel carried in each record attempt varied from 3,000 to 6,000 pounds.
The eight new altitudes and times records listed below were set by three USAF F-15 pilots: Maj. Roger Smith, Maj. W.R. Macfarlane and Maj. Dave Peterson who, from Jan. 16 to Feb. 1, 1975, flew the Streak Eagle.
- 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) 27.57 seconds
- 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) 39.33 seconds
- 9,000 meters (29,685 feet) 48.86 seconds
- 12,000 meters (39,370 feet) 59.38 seconds
- 15,000 meters (49,212 feet) 77.02 seconds
- 20,000 meters (65,617 feet) 122.94 seconds
- 25,000 meters (82,021 feet) 161.02 seconds
- 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) 207.80 seconds
In comparison with the upward numbers, a Boeing 727 takes more than 15 minutes in reaching 9,000 meters, while the Streak Eagle did it in less than one minute. The F-15 Streak Eagle is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.