The first one is an F-15E of the 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron and the video – tantalizingly slow-motioned – gives us a glimpse of what a take-off in style is all about. Filmed during a Black Flag exercise held recently at the Nevada airfield, the jet – majestically liveried in dark matte colors – ripples through the hot air of the desert with the stream of hot gasses ejecting out its engine nozzle.
Just as spectacular, if not more so, is the F-35 that takes to the air at dawn, with the stunning Las Vegas backdrop shining behind the turbulent superheated flow of jet engine flames. To me, that gives the “firepower” a whole new twist and puts the “power” in that “firepower.”
Separated by nearly 40 decades, the two combat aircraft serve the same ultimate purpose – reign supreme in the sky and keep all foes at bay. Although the older F-15 is more prominent in all aspects (wingspan, length, and height), it is also lighter than its younger sibling. And the 40 years in avionics development become apparent, with the fifth-generation fighter backed by a single engine almost as powerful as the F-15’s twin turbofans.
The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 afterburning pair on the Eagle can generate 29,180 lbf (64.9 kN) of thrust – 47,440 lbf (105.7 kN) with an afterburner. The Lightning’s Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 is suitable for 28,000 lbf (125 kN) of thrust dry and 43,000 lbf (191 kN) with a full afterburner.
However, the stealthy youngster is seriously outpaced in the top speed, ferry and combat range, and service ceiling. The F-15 can hit Mach 2.5 (1,650 mph, 2,655 kph) at high altitude and Mach 1.2 (921 mph; 1,482 kph) at sea level, which is way faster than the maximum speed (at altitude) of Mach 1.6 on which the F-35 can rely. On the other hand, since no one can see it coming, the F-35 is just as formidable a striker at lower speeds.
As for firepower, suffice to say that any of these two can unleash doomsday with one push of a button, given their devastating arsenal-carrying capacities. That’s why these great warbirds are best seen during regular exercise flights and not in their natural habitat. I can’t choose a favorite from the two videos, but feel free to take sides. Either way, it’s a win-win scenario.