The US Air Force has announced that an F-15E Strike Eagle, codenamed “Lucky”, has achieved an impressive milestone of 15,000 flight hours during a combat flight on May 17, 2024. This achievement is particularly noteworthy because Lucky is the only F. The 15E was credited with an air-to-air kill, a significant moment in its operational history.

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The achievement was highlighted in a July 10 press release, where the Air Force detailed that Lucky achieved the milestone while deployed to the U.S. Central Command’s area of ​​responsibility.

The average service life of the F-15E Strike Eagle is about 10,000 flight hours, making Lucky’s 15,000 flight hours even more extraordinary. This milestone is a testament to the dedication and expertise of the maintenance teams that ensure aircraft reliability.

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A crew member emphasized the rarity of this achievement, saying, “This milestone is unheard of for an airframe, and I am proud to be part of the team responsible for Lucky’s milestone, especially the deployed combatant. in the environment.”

Lucky, with tail number #89-0487, has been in service since 1989. During its nearly 35 years of service, hundreds of maintenance personnel have supported the platform.

However, a dedicated chief of staff has been particularly instrumental in reaching many of his milestones. The American airman, stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, has been working on Lucky since 2019.

Reflecting on his experience, the airman said, “I worked on this jet when it hit the 13,000, 14,000 and now the 15,000 flight hour mark.”

For decades, the F-15E Strike Eagle has been a cornerstone of the U.S. Air Force’s Central Operations, playing a critical role in assurance and deterrence missions. His extensive combat history includes participation in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

The Air Force noted, “The first F-15E was delivered in April 1988, and the 15,000 flight hour milestone leaves a milestone for the Strike Eagle community and 219 aircraft have been flown, serviced and maintained.” Acts as a testimony to the doers in Total Force Inventory.”

F 15E lucky 1
An F-15E Strike Eagle aircrew, including a pilot and weapons systems officer, exits the cockpit at an undisclosed location in the U.S. Central Command area of ​​responsibility on May 17, 2024. Radar, electronic warfare sensors, and conventional weapons loadouts. (US Air Force photo)

Maintaining an aircraft to such a high standard requires immense hard work and dedication. “Jets are ready at a moment’s notice to ensure lots of maintenance, long hours, and lots of upgrades,” Airman said. “It literally took blood, sweat and tears to achieve this milestone.”

How the F-15E Scored Its Only Air-to-Air Kill

gave F-15E Strike EagleWith tail number #89-0487, also known as “487”, holds a prominent place in aviation history due to its unique aerial approach. This achievement occurred on 14 February 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, involving F-15E aircraft from the 335th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Wing.

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Captain Richard “TB” Bennett piloted the aircraft, while Captain Dan “Chevy” Bakke served as Weapon Systems Officer (WSO).

That day, an F-15E Strike Eagle, tail number #89-0487, was part of a two-aircraft formation conducting a skid patrol when they received an urgent directive from AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System). .

They were ordered to shoot down three Iraqi helicopters that were deploying troops to an area where several US special forces were operating. As the two Strike Eagles approached the target zone, the aircraft’s radar began experiencing intermittent activity.

Bakke Count again Craig Brown’s book “Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements – 1981 to the Present” explains that the challenge was that the radar was picking up the rotation of the helicopter’s blades but could not maintain a lock. Consequently, he turned to the targeting pod to identify the helicopters.

McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle - Wikipedia
McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle – Wikipedia

Bakke was able to locate the two helicopters by their rotor movements in the LANTIRN pod and had to rely heavily on this system due to radar limitations. As he put it, “Radar wasn’t much help at the time. Our mindset was turning to a ground attack…”

TB and Chevy directed the second Strike Eagle to maintain the high cover position. Upon receiving confirmation from the AWACS to engage, they armed one of their four GBU-10 Paveway II 2000-lb laser-guided bombs (LGBs).

Bakke described Tense moments before dropping the bomb: TB asks if he’s ready, confirms good laser to target. Despite any technical issues, Bakke hesitated briefly due to gut feeling. Finally he ordered the release. Upon release of the 2,000-pound ordnance, the aircraft immediately responded with a sudden jerk and upward roll.

At that moment, the targeted Iraqi Mi-24 Hind helicopter tried to move away quickly. After dropping the bomb, TB executed a left designated turn, but initially believed the bomb had missed its target. However, the bomb eventually reappeared on Chevy’s display.

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He nosed up before descending, drilling through the helicopter’s rotors, which were apparently broken in the LANTIRN pod. The GBU-10 then entered the cockpit of the helicopter and exploded after exiting the bottom, creating a large fireball that completely destroyed the helicopter.

After this successful engagement, Bennett and Bakke attempted to engage the remaining two helicopters using their AIM-9 missiles. However, additional Strike Eagles were deployed to attack the remaining Iraqi helicopters, dropping bombs that could have endangered the F-15E. As a result, TB and Chewi were forced to withdraw from the area.

Although they missed the opportunity to shoot down the other two helicopters, Bennett and Bakke received important recognition the next day. Headquarters in Riyadh, known as the Black Hole, personally called to thank him for his actions, which resulted in the destruction of an enemy Mil Mi-24 Hind gunship. 17 members of US Special Forces were rescued.

F-15E #89-0487’s air-to-air kill during Operation Desert Storm is particularly notable as it used a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb to score the victory.



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