F-15E Strike Eagle reaches 10,000 logged flying hours

A Comment by the 21st Secretary of the USAF, Michael W. Wynne

01/23/2012 – On January 13, 2012, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, F-15E Strike Eagle No. 89-0487 embarked on a mission that brought its logged flying hours up to 10,000 flight hours.

F-15E Strike Eagle No. 89-0487 (Credit: 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, 01/13/12)F-15E Strike Eagle No. 89-0487 (Credit: 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, 01/13/12)

We asked Secretary Wynne to provide his thoughts on this achievement as well as the need to move forward.

The photo compliments the wonderful fourth generation fighter and strike aircraft.  The F-15E is fading into a well deserved retirement with a fading and setting sun. This is a tremendous compliment to the Maintenance Squadron for the 455th Expeditionary Fighter Wing at Bagram Air Base.

Recall it is now a distant memory when the F-15 broke apart just behind the cockpit and nearly doomed one of our Pilots in a single seat version.  Lt. General (ret) Dave Deptula saw his son flying the same serial number airplane that his father flew in support of Desert Shield, but his son flew in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  This kind of performance and the secure skies they fly in today has lulled our leadership into a very false sense of expectation of Air Dominance by decree.

Because of the technical heroes that brought this machine to life decades ago amidst the critics of the era; and the evolution from total air dominance into Ground Air Coordination via the Rover target designation system now in use throughout the current theater, as directed by the available command and control reachback into the CAOC and Theater Command Center; missions are making the most from the weapons available on board.

This mission evokes many lessons we need to learn.

First, the unfair fight that this fierce fighter represents is no longer available due to a massive investment by competitors.  We need to update our forces with the next generation of Air Dominance Aircraft to restore this unbalance we desire.

Second, the next generation, the Fifth Generation, will require a maintenance revolution as the expectation for life cycle will now routinely exceed 10,000 hours and forty years.

Third, as this wonderful platform evolved to meet the enemy when and where it was needed, so also must the fifth generation fighters ‘pay it forward’ by exploiting the embedded capabilities to be the Air Battle Manager and as well fully exploiting both the on board and off board sensors while not losing connectivity with the Ground Force Commanders.

The evolution of warfare is moving relentlessly to the information space, and has been for the past two decades. The information that is inherently developed within this next generation Air Dominance Fighter must be processed as if in a ‘Honeycomb’ by intelligence and operations to offer a dynamic view of the future fight.  Seconds will count and Theater Commanders must know in rapid time how to flex their forces.

Lastly, I would offer a well done to the Pilot, Weapons Officer, and Crew for this Aircraft. Achieving 10,000 flight hours is a career achievement for the Aircraft and the crew.  I’m sure they felt very lucky to be the Crew.

Let’s also coldly realize that this aircraft is now operating beyond any design life expectations; and the geriatric models for Aircraft design are being updated with every flight.

Is this the way America wants to tell the world how strong our Air Force is?  Do the rest of us feel ‘Lucky’ as well?

(For a slideshow focused on the 10,000th flight hour go to


"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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