Only F-15E with air-to-air kill surpasses 15,000 flight hours

A US Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagle, tail number #89-0487 and nicknamed “Lucky,” recently reached a prestigious milestone, reaching 15,000 flight hours during a combat sortie on May 17, 2024, while deployed within the US Central Command area of responsibility.

Noteworthy this Strike Eagle which is the only F-15E credited with an air-to-air kill.

As told by Staff Sgt. Sean Martin, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, in the article “LUCKY” reaches prestigious milestone, hundreds of maintenance personnel have supported this F-15E over the nearly 35 years of service. However, one dedicated crew chief has been a part of many milestones with the aircraft.

A US Airman, deployed from North Carolina’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, has been working on “LUCKY” since 2019. “I have worked on this jet when it reached the 13,000, 14,000 and now 15,000 flight hour mark,” said the Airman.

The 15,000-flight hour milestone leaves a historic mark to the Strike Eagle community and serves as a testament to those who fly, service, and maintain the 219 aircraft in the Total Force inventory.

F-15E that shot down a Mi-24 helicopter with 2000lb LGB surpasses 15,000 flight hours during combat mission
F-15E Strike Eagle aircrew, consisting of a pilot and weapon systems officer, exit the cockpit at an undisclosed location in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, May 17, 2024. The Strike Eagle consists of two aircrew who employ the advanced weapon system’s radar, electronic warfare sensors, and traditional weapons loadouts. 

“Lots of maintenance, long hours, and many upgrades are needed to ensure jets are ready at a moment’s notice,” said the Airman. “Literal blood, sweat and tears went into achieving this milestone.”

The average service life for an F-15E is approximately 10,000 flight hours, making the 15,000-flight hour milestone even more meaningful. The Airman pointed out that the “milestone is unheard of” for the airframe.

Tail number #89-0487

“‘LUCKY’ has been an honor to crew,” said the Airman. “All of the crew chiefs, both past and present, paved the way for the standard needed to maintain this jet. There are people all over the world who know her story and constantly ask me about how it’s doing.”

According to Alert 5, F-15E Strike Eagle tail number #89-0487 came into service in 1989 when it was delivered to the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and assigned to the 335th Fighter Squadron.

Captains Richard T. Bennett (pilot) and Daniel B. Bakke (weapon systems officer, WSO) were flying “487” on Feb. 14, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm when they became the first and only F-15E crew to achieve an air-to-air victory.

F-15E that shot down a Mi-24 helicopter with 2000lb LGB surpasses 15,000 flight hours during combat mission
The green star on Aircraft #89-0487 represents an air-to-air victory achieved during Operation Desert Storm.

Captains Bennett and Bakke, already airborne on a Scud patrol mission, were diverted to engage an Iraqi Mi-24 helicopter gunship after they responded to a distress call from Special Forces facing down three Hinds.

The F-15E crew had to maneuver through challenging weather and had evade anti-aircraft fire before being able to identify the Hinds on their targeting pod and observed them deploying troops to surround the Special Forces team.

Captains Bennett and Bakke initially planned to attack the lead helicopter with a laser-guided GBU-10 bomb while it was on the ground. However, as the bomb was released, the helicopter took off. Despite their radar indicating the helicopter was gaining altitude, Bakke maintained laser designation.

A massive explosion engulfed the Mi-24, disintegrating it moments later. It was nearly 245 meters above the ground, according to Special Forces estimates. The remaining Hinds retreated, allowing the Special Forces team to safely withdraw.

The Strike Eagle

F-15E print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-15E Strike Eagle 366th Fighter Wing, 391st Fighter Squadron, MO/90-0249 – Mountain Home AFB, ID – 2008

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night and in all weather.

The aircraft uses two crew members, a pilot and a weapon systems officer.

For air-to-ground missions, the F-15E can carry most weapons in the Air Force inventory. It also can be armed with AIM-9M Sidewinders or AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles, or AMRAAM for the air-to-air role. The “E” model also has an internally mounted 20mm gun that can carry up to 500 rounds.

The first production model of the F-15E was delivered to the 405th Tactical Training Wing, Luke AFB, Arizona, in April 1988.

F-15 model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung, James D’Angina and MSGT STEVEN TURNER / U.S. Air Force