It’s nice to be back home after an exhausting “vacation”. A missed flight, lost luggage, and some doofus who dinged up our rental car (thank God for the $40 we spent on insurance) made the down time more stressful, but our time in Seattle was still pretty good.
As I get back into the swing of writing, I want to take to the skies again. Today’s History Lesson actually has, as its roots, a topic I covered back in June: North American’s XB-70 Valkyrie. The Valkyrie, designed as a super-fast, high-flying bomber, succeeded at both. But its cost, as well as Soviet advances in missile technology, put paid to the B-70’s chances of entering production.
From the Soviet perspective, however, the B-70 was a huge threat to their security. Yeah, they had missile technology, but with massed high-altitude bombers attacking at Mach 3, there was a sizeable risk that the bombers would reach their targets. Their response? The MiG-25 Foxbat. The Foxbat was the ultimate expression of the Cold War concept of the Interceptor – a concept which emphasized raw speed and standoff air-to-air missile attack rather than maneuverability. The U.S. built an entire series of interceptors in the late 50’s and 60’s culminating in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, though none could match the straight-line speed of the Soviet mark.
The U.S. saw the Foxbat, mistook it for a fighter of awesome performance, and went to the drawing board. What came out of the fire was also from McDonnell Douglas (today part of Boeing) and was christened the F-15 Eagle. You can see some of the Foxbat in the Eagle, but similarities end there. The Foxbat was an interceptor and the Eagle was designed from the outset as a dogfighter. So it was given a gun (the first fighter since the F-100 to have one)…the M61A1 cannon. Standoff capability was added with an advanced Hughes radar suite and short- and medium-range missiles. Finally, because air superiority was crucial, an emphasis was placed on low wing loading and powerful engines.
The Eagle, first flown on July 27, 1972, would be extensively tested, delivered in 1974, and enter front-line service in 1976 as the premier fighter of its day. It could continue its front-line duties for another 15 years. My love for aircraft in general, and the ’15 in particular, means we’re 100% sure to discuss this plane again as its various milestones show up on the calendar.
As a side note, our son commissioned into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant at Fort Lewis on Friday morning (hence our trip out West). It’s been wonderful to watch him grow and mature into a leader. We’re so proud of you!!
Recommended Reading: Storm Over Iraq – Air Power and the Gulf War – The F-15, like so many of our weapon systems, was untested until this conflict. The F-15, like so many of our weapon systems, passed with flying colors.