KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Created during a time of much needed skill and innovation, the F-15 Eagle remains undefeated in combat with over 100 air-to-air victories and zero air-to-air losses. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Eagle’s first flight.
Dating back to the Vietnam War era, the U.S. needed an aircraft that could go up against the MiG-25 Foxbat. The McDonnell Douglas Corporation answered the call with the roll out of the F-15 Eagle on June 26, 1972, with its first flight taking off only a month later.
“After its first flight was completed, the F-15 became a part of the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1974,” said James D’Angina, 18th Wing historian. “On September 29, 1979, the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, now the 18th Wing, received 16 F-15’s assigned to the 67th Fighter Squadron. We were the first to receive the F-15 Eagle in the Pacific Theater.”
The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to permit the U.S. Air Force to gain and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield.Throughout the last 50 years, it has done just that.
The F-15 Eagle supported various conflicts throughout the Middle East, including Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, operations Southern Watch, Provide Comfort in Turkey, Allied Force in Bosnia, Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
Here in the Pacific Theater, the F-15C Eagle plays a crucial role ensuring a free-and-open Indo-Pacific. The 67th and 44th Fighter Squadrons at Kadena Air Base are the only U.S. air superiority specialists in the Pacific that fly the F-15C Eagle.
“Kadena is located in the Keystone of the Pacific and we are able to showcase airpower anytime and anywhere,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Patrick Sullivan, 44th Fighter Squadron F-15C Eagle pilot. “This not only acts as a deterrent but also helps ensure freedom of navigation in the Pacific area of responsibility, as well as reaffirms our commitment to our partners and allies.”
Bilateral training with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) reinforces the U.S. and Japan alliance and fosters an environment to produce a more lethal and effective fighting force.
“Training with the JASDF synergizes efforts to seamlessly execute joint operation plans as well as build interpersonal relationships with our allies,” Sullivan explained. “Building camaraderie amongst our local partners allows us to learn from each other and overall become a more cohesive joint force.”
Despite its age, the F-15 Eagle remains relevant amongst newer aircraft. A key factor to the Eagle still flying proudly for half a century lies in the hands of the maintainers who work around the clock to ensure the jets are able to take off, as well as the pilots who push the aircraft’s capabilities to their limits.
“The Eagle may be a legacy platform, but over the years it has received numerous upgrades to keep it in the game,” Sullivan said. “It’s a unique combat platform that is highly adaptable. Not only does it have high-end sensors and weapons, but it also has a fuel load that allows us to project combat power throughout the entire area of responsibility. The people that help support the jet have been amazing in keeping it flying for so long, and the pilots have been able to evolve tactics over time to keep up with the current threats we may face.”