Weapon Systems

F-15E Strike Eagle's air-to-air capabilities enhance US Air Force's agility concept


The F-15E is distinctly suited for the US Air Force's Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept -- a vision of using agile tactics to respond to modern contested environments.

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An F-15E Strike Eagle departs after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, over the northeastern United States, August 24, 2022. [US Air Force]
An F-15E Strike Eagle departs after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, over the northeastern United States, August 24, 2022. [US Air Force]

The ability of the multirole F-15E Strike Eagle to carry out strike or air interdiction missions without escort or electronic warfare aircraft assistance makes it a superior option for the US Air Force's Agile Combat Employment (ACE).

The Strike Eagle is a versatile dual-role fighter with the capacity to "fight its way to a target over long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions and fight its way out," according to the US Air Force.

An updated model of the Air Force's legacy F-15 family of fighter jets, the F-15E Strike Eagle is capable of carrying out not only air-to-air missions but also long-range air-to-ground missions, including strikes against enemy ground targets.

With advanced avionics, superior maneuverability and acceleration, and the capacity to fly at low altitudes, day or night and in all weather, the F-15E is designed to conduct bombing missions without a fighter escort.

The fighter boasts faster acceleration than previous models do, according to the US Air Force, and can also be equipped with most weapons in the Air Force inventory for air-to-ground missions in addition to air-to-air missiles.

The US Air Force first took delivery of the F-15E in 1989. As of last July, it had 218 F-15Es averaging 30 years of age.

Worldwide, at least 525 F-15E Strike Eagles have been produced so far, with more on the way.

Introduced as US Air Force doctrine in 2022, ACE focuses on spreading out power and operations from large, centralized bases to smaller, dispersed locations, providing the force with greater mobility and the ability to rapidly respond to a wide variety of threats.

Physical dispersal further complicates adversaries' abilities to target US Air Force and allied air power, enabling ACE to "increase survivability while generating combat power," according to the Air Force.

Multirole advantage

The ACE concept centers around multiple, small-scale ground operations in a forward battlefield area supported by multiple fighter and land attack aircraft that can carry out a variety of missions from smaller air fields.

With more than 30 years in service, the F-15E has demonstrated the ability to reliably carry out deep strikes against high-value targets, combat air patrols and close air support.

The multirole fighter's ability to be re-tasked into multiple missions over a short period makes it a superior aircraft for operating within the ACE concept.

The F-15E can also accelerate from idle power to maximum afterburner in less than four seconds, a 40% improvement over the previous engine control system, according to the US Air Force.

Faster engine acceleration means quicker takeoffs and crisper response while maneuvering, with the former being key to the ACE concept and its focus on smaller, dispersed air fields.

The F-15E can reportedly take off in just 300 meters and land in just 450 meters.

The fighter jet stands out from other multirole aircraft in terms of its air-to-air lethality.

The Strike Eagle can be armed with AIM-9 Sidewinders and AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs) and also carries an internally mounted General Electric M61A1 20mm cannon with 500 rounds, which is effective against enemy aircraft.

The latest variant of the Strike Eagle, the F-15EX Eagle II, boasts enhanced payload, range and speed, with a maximum speed of Mach 2.5.

With more payload capacity than any of its predecessors, the Eagle II is able to carry as many as 22 AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and AIM-120 AMRAAMs.

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