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Once the Planet's Scariest Fighter Jet, This F-15A Now Sits Collecting Bird Droppings
This Mcdonnel-Douglas F-15A Eagle was very much still in active military service when the Air Heritage Museum in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, opened its doors in 1986. Somehow, someway, 35 years have passed since then. Enough time for the once-prized fighter to be wholly obsolete.

Once the Planet's Scariest Fighter Jet, This F-15A Now Sits Collecting Bird Droppings

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When the Eagle was brand new, not that many people thought that day would ever come. Built to replace Mcdonnel-Douglas's previous front-line interceptor, the F-4 Phantom II, the F-15A Eagle was a technological marvel. Lessons learned over the skies of Vietnam taught American forces a very precious lesson.

This lesson was that their notion of air-to-air missiles bringing an end to close-up aerial dogfights was nothing more than blind arrogance. Unlike the original Phantom II, the new Eagle would not go into battle without sporting a gun. A top-of-the-line M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon was chosen. Working with what was then one of the most advanced targeting computers money could buy.

The smaller, lighter Eagle was a night and day experience to the now-defunct Phantoms. In automotive terms, the Eagle was a lightweight rear-engined sports car, and the Phantom II was like a boosted Cummins pickup truck with 18 wheels. Both were undeniably quick, but one is infinitely more adaptable than the other.

In terms of rear-engined cars, the Eagle was less of a VW Beetle and more like the latest 911 GT3 RS. Meaning, of course, that it was the fastest thing in the skies over most of planet Earth's airspace. That was thanks to twin Pratt & Whitney F100-100 after-burning turbofan engines that could jet almost 48,000 pounds (212kN) of thrust using full afterburners. This translated to a top speed of 2.5 times the speed of sound, around 1,665 miles per hour (2,655 kph) at an altitude of 36,000 feet (10,975 m)

It should be no surprise that the new Eagle absolutely throttled just about every opponent foolish enough to try and challenge it. To clarify, that's to the tune of over 100 shootdowns. Compared to, get this, ZERO losses. Zilch, zippo, nada, not a single airframe lost to enemy action dating back well over four decades.

No aircraft before or since can lay claim to a clean record like that for even half as long, including American aircraft the Eagle served alongside. The Eagle shined most brightly in service with the Israeli Air Defense Forces. The jet manhandled opposing Arab Air Forces with a profound ferocity and brutality. One so severe, it almost made Eagle pilots pity their adversaries. The Eagle's combination of Aim-7 Sparrow radar missiles, Aim-9 Sidewinder heat seekers, and its cannon made for a foe that intimidated even the grizzliest pilots in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, this particular F-15A, serial number 76-012, was assigned to the 36th fighter wing at Bitburg, Germany, from the late 70s until the early 90s. It then served with the U.S Air Force during Operation Desert Storm in support of the international anti-Saddam Husein coalition to remove the Iraqi dictator's military from occupying its neighboring nation, Kuwait. The F-15 class of jets accounted for 32 of the 36 enemy aircraft shot down in the conflict.

The multi-role F-15E Strike Eagle was ready soon after this war. The newly redesigned two-seater air and ground attack plane lessened the importance of the strictly air superiority standard Eagle fighter. Thus, many were sent into surplus yards until the military could find a use for them. 76-012 found use as a sheet metal demonstrator for the aircraft repair school at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

The prospective mechanics routinely punched through and repaired the airframe's titanium skin. Students of the Air Base used the jet to learn how to fix military aircraft damage in the field. It took two trips down to the base in Georgia to get all the airframe components back to Pennsylvania. The plane arrived on August 15th, 2009.

Then, the Air Heritage Museum's crack team of volunteers got to work removing as much of the damage as they could. A fresh coat of paint donated by Home Depot made for a package that's significantly more displayable than it would have been with several holes throughout the plane. 76-012 currently sits outside the entrance to the Air Heritage facility, standing guard over the museum entrance. Parked next to the Eagle is the very airplane it was destined to replace, a venerable F-4 Phantom II.

Nowadays, the two jets enjoy their retirement by awe-striking every museum-goer that meets its gaze. There's an indisputable human side to these aircraft as they sit in this state. As if they beg you to hop inside and take off. Of course, neither the Phantom nor the Eagle have engines anymore, so that's not going to happen.

Check back for more from our visit to the Air Heritage Museum here on autoevolution.


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