News: Air Force Grounds F-15 Fleet Following Crash
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON - The Air Force has grounded its F-15 Eagle fleet following the crash of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C on Nov. 2. However, F-15s assigned to North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Central Command Air Forces will be on alert and fly required missions, officials said.
Although the incident is still under investigation, preliminary findings indicate a possible structural failure led to last week's crash during a training exercise near Salem, Mo.
"The Air Force is looking at its operational requirements, where they have the newer aircraft and making some of those available for missions while they take a look at the F-15 fleet to see if they have a more systemic problem throughout the fleet," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Air Force officials said they will ensure mission requirements are met for worldwide operations normally accomplished by the F-15. Flying locations include bases in the continental United States, Alaska, England, Hawaii, Japan and the Middle East.
"It is important to remember, in the F-15E, that not all F-15s are created equal," Whitman said. "It is a family of aircraft built over a long period of time; some earlier models have been in service a lot longer than F-15Es."
About 700 aging F-15s are in today's Air Force inventory. The fleet first reached operational capability in September, 1975. The aircraft involved in last week's crash was built in 1980, officials said. While the F-15 continues to prove highly effective in ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force is on a course to eventually replace the aging F-15 A, B, C and D fleet with the stealthy F-22 Raptor.
The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to permit the Air Force to gain and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield, according to Air Force officials.
The F-15C, D and E models were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm. F-15C fighters accounted for 34 of the 37 Air Force air-to-air victories in that conflict.
They have since been deployed for Air Expeditionary Force deployments and operations Southern Watch, the no-fly zone in southern Iraq; Provide Comfort, in Turkey; Allied Force, in Bosnia; Enduring Freedom, in Afghanistan; and Iraqi Freedom, officials said.