Manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, the F-15E Strike Eagle is a Ground Attack version of the successful F-15 Eagle. The Strike Eagle features many of the same capabilities and systems as the F-15C, and retains many of it's abilities, while adding Ground Attack systems.
The Strike Eagle also forms the basis for later variants of the F-15, and has had a very successful combat history, continuing into the modern day.
F-15E Strike Eagle
F-15E releasing flares
Ground attack and Strike Fighter
Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph, 2,650+ km/h)
60,000 ft (18,200 m)
2,400 mi (2,100 nmi, 3,900 km) with conformal fuel tank and three external fuel tanks
Like the F-15 it is derived from, the Strike Eagle features powerful engines, and high maneuvrability due to it's original design being for air superiority. It retains this lethality in the Strike Eagle guise, being more than capable of engaging air targets and performing air-to-air combat roles as well as ground attacks.
Additions to the F-15E over the original versions include a second seat for a bombardier/weapon systems officer to co-ordinate and process data from the onboard sensors, radar, and ECM systems and react accordingly, as well as launch weapons against targets. The WSO can also independently engage ground targets, while passing off data to the pilot, allowing them to engage air targets at the same time.
The WSO has access to the information on multiple screens, allowing for information to be displayed for the users' ease and advantage. In addition, unlike some other two-place aircraft, the F-15E features flight controls in the rear seat, allowing the WSO to fly the aircraft, although with reduced visibility.
The Strike Eagle is also fitted with two huge conformal fuel tanks along the sides of the fuselage, that as well as carrying fuel, also mount two rows of three hardpoints each, increasing payload and fuel and giving an increased range at a cost to performance. It is unusual for a Strike Eagle to fly without these tanks, but not unknown. The CFTs are also fitted to all export versions of the aircraft.
The Strike Eagle also externally mounts a targeting pod, which includes a laser designator and it's tracking system, allowing it to use laser guided weapons, or to designate targets for other aircraft or forces, transferring the target information through data links. This is mounted under the left engine air intake.
A navigation pod with infra-red and night-vision systems, as well as terrain-following radar is mounted under the right air intake, and can be used to safely fly at ultra-low altitudes during night operations by projecting the thermal video image of the surrounding terrain onto the heads-up display. It can also be coupled to the autopilot to allow for hands-off terrain following ability.
Following the end of World War Three, the USAF has begun to reduce the number of Strike Eagles in it's inventory, as many have now reached the end of their operational service lives due to airframe fatigue. Others have been offered for sale to Mercenary units. The FB-22 Strike Raptor is expected to be its' replacement, as it comes online in greater numbers, and has already begun to replace some units.
The first operational F-15E was delivered to the USAF in 1988. It was used in the Persian Gulf War following this, and was later used in the Balkan Wars in 1994-5. In both conflicts, the F-15E achieved great success, and no Strike Eagles were lost to hostile fire. In addition, they achieved all of their mission goals with very little failiure rates.
Following the declaration of war in 1998, front line units of F-15E Strike Eagles based at RAF Lakenheath in the UK were moved to the front lines in West Germany, as well as to other European and Middle Eastern bases where they performed long-range tactical strikes against Soviet positions.
During this time, they were matched against Soviet SU-27, 35, and 37 Flanker and Terminator aircraft, as well as the MiG-29 Fulcrum. While the F-15E is a capable air-to-air aircraft, it was often heavily laden with air-to-ground ordnance when engaged, and in most engagements against the more powerful and modern SU-37's, the Strike Eagle would come off worst, but often taking down at least one of the enemy aircraft.
Nonetheless, the Strike Eagles performed notable missions, such as the total destruction of bridgeheads along the Ruhr, and a long-range strike to disable the Red Army Command posts inside Poland during the third offensive of 1999.
Notable F-15E Strike Eagle pilots include USAF Second Lieutenant Mark 'Blaze' Morgan, who became an Ace during the Third World War, after ambushing a squadron of TU-22M Backfire bombers returning from a strike, while he was returning from a strike mission himself. Later, he also shot down a transport aircraft carrying a Soviet General back from the front lines.
St Helen 'Razorblade' Carter of the Black Knights squadron of Thunderbolt Black piloted a customised F-15E for Thunderbolt Black. Her aircraft sported a charcoal black dorsal surface and sides, and a ghost grey ventral surface, as well as crimson leading edges on the wings and vertical tail surface.
Like most Thunderbolt Black aircraft, her F-15E was also modified for Carrier launches and landings with a strengthened landing gear, catapult compatible nosegear, folding wings and vertical tails, and an anti-corrosion finish, as well as a modified ILS (inertial landing system) and probe and drogue-type inflight refuelling system, rather than the air force socket-type system. Sadly, this aircraft was destroyed in the skies during the battle of St Petersburg.
During the war in Alaska, F-15E's were heavily involved in efforts to push the invading Soviet forces off of the US mainland.
During this time, An F-15E was called in for air support by a group of Special Operations forces who had found themselves cut off from help in hostile territory, with injured men and help still far off, and unable to come in due to the enemy forces present.
A single F-15E was in the area, and managed to hold back enemy forces through the use of GBU-12 Paveway Bombs, CBU-87 Cluster bombs, cannon fire, and when enemy Hind Gunships appeared, with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, claiming an air-to-air victory. The Strike Eagle also claimed a victory against an inbound MiG-29, at long range with an AMRAAM missile.
When it's ordnance was expended, the F-15E remained on station and talked other air assets into the area, and acted as on-site co-ordinator for air support, and the eventual recovery of the Special Forces personnel.
F-15E's were also instrumental in the battle of the Mid-Pacific, when a flight of four aircraft flying from Midway engaged a convoy of Soviet troop-carrying ships and their escorting destroyers with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 1,000lb JDAM GPS-Guided bombs in an unconventional role for the USAF. The loss of these ships was instrumental in Hawaii and Midway remaining unoccupied by Soviet or other hostile forces.
There was a proposal for an F-15N, naval version, of the F-15 as a direct competitor to the F-14 Tomcat in the real world. Lessons from this proposal can be assumed to have been applied to the 'Naval Upgrade' in Thunderbolt Blacks' timeline.