As usual when it comes to such high-profile events, the said stadium was witness to a spectacle not only on the field, but also in the sky. There, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) deployed, together with the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, a P-51 Mustang.
The vintage aircraft was not alone, but accompanied by the infinitely more modern F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and A-10 Thunderbolt. The four aircraft performed what the Air Force calls its first-ever heritage flight over a Super Bowl.
But these planes were not the only ones flying that night. Further up, and out of sight, three F-15E Strike Eagles were lurking in the dark, performing security patrol missions over the Los Angeles area.
We get to see one of them in action thanks to the main photo of this piece, released by the USAF last week. The plane is deployed with the 144th Fighter Wing and was snapped on film by a Senior Airman, as the fighter jet was approaching its airborne refueling station.
That would be a KC-10, flying with the 60th Air Mobility Wing, which delivered during the Super Bowl night no less than 83,000 pounds (over 37 tons) of fuel to the three hunting birds.
The F-15E Strike Eagle is described as a dual-role fighter, which can take on both airborne and ground targets. It’s a two-seater that came to be in the shops of McDonnell Douglas (now owned by Boeing) back in the late 1980s and has proven successful enough since then there are presently over 200 of them flying with the USAF.
Each Strike Eagle comes equipped with a pair of Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines with afterburners, giving out up to 29,000 pounds of thrust each. Thanks to them, the planes are capable of reaching speeds of over Mach 2.5 (1,875 mph/3,018 kph), being some of the fastest military birds presently flying.
Normally, F-15E Strike Eagles can fly for as much as 2,400 miles (3,840 km) when packing three external fuel tanks to complement the onboard ones. But, thanks to the availability of aerial refueling, as seen during Super Bowl over Los Angeles, that range is purely theoretical.
Back in 1998, the reference year for this bird’s price, a single unit cost $31.1 million, which in today’s money would mean close to $54 million.