Florida ‘Thunder’ rumble

U.S. Air Force aircraft armament systems specialists assigned to the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Florida, load weapons onto an F-15C Eagle aircraft, Sept. 7, 2022. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Chelsea Smith)
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen “Shark” Pierce, an F-15C Eagle fighter pilot, waves before departure at the Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida, Sept. 14, 2022. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Michael Monlezun)
An F-15C Eagle aircraft assigned to the 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, takes off during night flying at the Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Sept. 14, 2022. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Michael Monlezun)

The F-15 Eagle turns 50

Congratulations to all of you who flew and worked on the F-15 Eagle and to the Might Mighty’s 50th anniversary.

50 years ago today, on July 27, 1972, under the control of McDonnell Douglas chief test pilot Irving L. Burrows, the F-15 Eagle first took to the skies over Edwards AFB, CA.

(McDonnell Douglas photo)

Burrows took the Air Force’s new twin-engine dedicated air superiority fighter on a 50 minute cruise, which topped out at 12,000 feet and 250 knots, before returning to base. The flight was uneventful other than a minor issue with a landing gear door.
“It was just like the simulator,” said Burrows upon departing the aircraft, S/N 71-0280, the first YF-15A prototype (F-15A). It was painted in “Air Superiority Blue” with orange flight test markings, and had square wingtips and an unnotched stabilator.
“This aircraft performed well from the first minute,” said Burrows later. “We knew we had a winner from the start.”

Irving L. Burrows (McDonnell Douglas photo)

Several more flights occurred in the week that followed. They included milestones such as achieving Mach 1.5 speed and reaching an altitude of 45,000 feet.


Prototype F-15 71-0284

Celebrating 50 years of the Mighty Mighty this month. Today a closer look on the fifth prototype built. F-15A 71-0284. 0284 made its first flight on 7 March 1973, and was used as the trials aircraft for armament development. It was the first Eagle with the internal M61 cannon fitted. It was also used for external fuel tank jettison testing. Used by the combined McDonnell Douglas/USAF F-15 Joint Test Force at Edwards between 1973 and nov75 (noted with code ‘5’ on latter date). Early in 1974 the Air Force initiated Operation ‘Streak Eagle’, the time to climb record. One aircraft would have had to be modified, and the choice was between 71-0284 and 72-0119. The latter was chosen and 71-0284 continued its testing career.

71-0284 was retired and re designated a GF-15A; it became an instructional aircraft at the Sheppard TTC by April 1977. Remained in use until October 1991 at least; and although it arrived in its former test colors, it later was repainted in grey camo and carried an ‘HO’ code on one side of the aircraft and ‘FF’ on the other. Last noted as instructional aircraft in October 1990, it was noted with the name ‘City of Iowa Park’ during much of this instructional period. 71-0284 was noted on the dump at Sheppard in July 1992, but ended up as an instructional airframe at Goodfellow AFB (TX). First noted there in April 1995, last in May 2008, the aircraft carried the ‘GD’ tail code during this entire period.



written by Patrick “Red” van Dam

Mission Ready is a visual narrative about a world that’s not accessible to most of us. Until now. Documentary photographer and creative director Patrick van Dam gives us a realistic and uncensored insight into the “Best Fighter Squadron of the U.S. Air Force”. Through compelling images, he offers an insider perspective of the legendary 493rd Fighter Squadron’s daily operations. This is not Top Gun. This is better. This is real.

From 2016 to 2021, Van Dam was granted access to several restricted military airbases and experienced first-hand what it takes to be a fighter pilot during a training mission in an F-15 Eagle. His contemporary photography is never shy of demystifying a sometimes romanticized world, yet always with an aesthetic point of view.


159th Fighter Wing Air Refueling

Some great behind the scene footage; Eagles from the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana, “Coonass Militia” were refueled by KC-135 Stratotankers from the 914th Air Refueling Wing, New York, July 10, 2022 over Southeastern United States. U.S. Air Force photographer Tiffany A. Emery joined the tanker crew and made these awesome shots.