On 2 November, a F-15C belonging to the Missouri Air National Guard crashed. The pilot was uninjured and reported “structural failure” as the initial cause.
All models of the F-15 Eagle, including the F-15E “Strike Eagle” (pictured above), have been grounded pending the outcome of the official investigation. Combat taskings will be covered by other assets. The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)left Norfolk,Virginia on 7 November. This was a planned deployment replacing the U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65) currently on station in the Arabian Sea. However it was announced that the Truman will be assuming some of the F-15 combat missions.
The investigation is still on going and for that reason I’ve held off jumping on the band wagon to report this. The mishap aircraft was 27 years old. This is getting long in tooth for fighter aircraft. Caution is the word of the day for an aging fleet and groundings are a common precautionary response. After the official investigation concludes and a fleet wide inspection completed, the F-15 is expected to return to service.
The crash highlights a structural design flaw in the tail of the F-15 that was identified in the 1990’s. Then 9/11 happened. The increased mission tempo brought on by the war has brought renewed focus on Non-destructive Inspections (NDI) to discover and repair defects . The Air Force x-rays the aircraft on a scheduled basis to see if anything is cracking. The grounding will no doubt provide an opportunity to NDI the fleet before anything else happens.
The F-22 “Raptor” is operational and is scheduled to replace the Eagle. The Air Force has ordered 187 of them to replace 688 Eagles. If this incident accelerates the F-15 retirement, it might be a hard row to hoe to get Congress to pay for any more of the 133 million dollar F-22’s.