Ageing aircraft 1 – USAF clips Eagle’s wings

Things are beginning to look gloomy for the F-15. The US Air Force has so far found four [UPDATE - seven] Eagles with cracks in fuselage longerons and Air Combat Command has grounded all 442 of its F-15A to D models until further notice, even if they pass inspections intended to find the cracks. The decision comes after investigators discovered additional cracks in the Missouri Air National Guard F-15C that crashed on 2 November after suffering stuctural failure during air combat training.

The crash, groundings, inspections and discovery of other cracked longerons comes as the US Air Force mounts an intense campaign of lobbying (and some whining) for additional funding to replace its ageing fleets of fighters, transports, tankers and combat rescue helicopters (did I miss anything out?). I sympathise, but I also come from a country that kept the English Electric Canberra in front-line service for 50 years.

It will be expensive, but the USAF will have to live with the ageing Eagle a while longer. The aircraft has actually done quite well – F-16s had to go through the Falcon Up structural upgrade to stay in service and F-18s are going though a costly centre barrel replacement. All aircraft age – fighters especially – and the process has to be managed. The F-22 and F-35 that will replace the F-15 and F-35 better be designed to last 30 years – and capable of lasting 50 – or our grandchildren are in trouble.

Yes, it IS your grandfather’s F-15 (USAF photo)

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3 Responses to Ageing aircraft 1 – USAF clips Eagle’s wings

  1. Hammer 7 December, 2007 at 9:21 pm #

    I sympathise, but I also come from a country that kept the English Electric Canberra in front-line service for 50 years.
    Excuse me but when was the last time a Canberra pulled 9g please???!

    These aircraft were designed and built when I was a kid; I’m 46 now!

    They really do need to be replaced. One may quibble about what to replace them with; new F-15 or F-22s. But replace them we must.

  2. The Woracle 7 December, 2007 at 9:39 pm #

    Agreed. But the USAF’s “big bang” approach to renewing its fleets clearly does not work in today’s budget environment. Even if it gets 240 F-22s, that is fewer than the F-15s that must be replaced and does nothing to address the inevitable ageing of the F-15E fleet.

    Perhaps the fault lies with a budget process that cannot come to terms with keeping existing fleets up to date until they can be replaced.

  3. Beast 8 December, 2007 at 11:47 am #

    While I agree that the Eagle is getting old, it is still very much capable of doing the job. The fact of the matter is there are lots of low-hour F-15A-B models sitting at AMARC in Tucson, AZ that can make great spares for the stressed F-15s to keep them flying longer.

    As for the Craptor that A/C has to be the largest waste of tax payers dollars ever. Sure it is spectacular to watch in flight but lets see how good it is when it hovers to shoot down an enemy fighter and the enemy’s wingman sneaks in to blow away the sitting duck.

    If the AF can find a way to keep B-52s, KC-135s, and T-38s in the air as long as they have they should be able keep the Eagle soaring proudly overhead.

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