The F-15 is an all-weather tactical strike fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat, although it is also capable of using air-to-ground weaponry. It was developed by McDonnell Douglas and firstly entered service for the U.S. in 1972. Today, the true owner of the F-15 is Boeing, a result of the merging between the two companies (Boeing and McDonnell Douglas) in 1997.
The plane was built by the request of the U.S. Air Force for a relatively light-weight and a long-range fighter that will be able to intercept the Soviet Union’s new MiG-25 Foxbat. The F-15 resembles the twin-tailed Navy VFX F-14 Tomcat (although it has fixed wings) and it is a little bit lighter than the F-4 Phantom II, which it was made to replace.
The F-15’s first kill was made by an Israeli Air Force ace Moshe Melnik in 1979, at the beginning of the border disputes between Israel and Lebanon. During these disputes, between 1979 and 1981 Israeli F-15s downed 13 Syrian MiG-21 "Fishbeds" and two Syrian MiG-25 "Foxbats" (the airplane that the F-15 was designed to beat). During Lebanon War in 1982, the Israeli F-15s shot down 40 Syrian Jet fighters plus 1 Syrian helicopter (23 MiG-21 "Fishbeds" and 17 MiG-23 "Floggers" and one SA.342L Gazelle helicopter) without losing a single F-15!
As of 2008, the F-15 in all air forces has an air-to-air combined kill record of 104 kills to 0 losses in air combat. To date, no air superiority versions of the F-15 (A/B/C/D models) have ever been shot down by enemy forces. Over half of the F-15's kills were made by Israeli Air Force pilots.
The F-15's maneuverability is derived from low wing loading (weight to wing area ratio) with a high thrust-to-weight ratio enabling the aircraft to turn tightly without losing airspeed. The F-15 can climb to 10,000 m (30,000 feet) in around 60 seconds. The thrust output of the dual engines is greater than the aircraft's weight (the early variants had a ratio of about 1.2:1), thus giving it the ability to accelerate in a vertical climb.
In 1983, the F-15’s capabilities were proven oncre again when an Israeli pilot named Zivi Nedivi and his copilot flew and landed an F-15 with only one wing! It was considered physically impossible, and Israel had to dispatch photos of the airplane along with the report to McDonnell Douglas in order prove it.
As the Israeli Air Force searched for a way to expand the flight range of its F-16s, it reached a revolutionary idea- to make an F-15 refuel an F-16. The idea was to equip the F-16 with special detachable fuel tanks which incorporate with the refueling systems of the A-4 Skyhawk and C-130 Hercules airplanes (which also never refueled an F-16 before). It was achieved in 1999, when for the first time ever, an F-15 refueled in mid-air an F-16!
If that's not enough, Israeli F-15s participated (as escorts) in the bombings of the Iraqi nuclear reactor Osiraq in Operation Ofra, and Syria's secretly built nuclear reactor in Operation Orchard. Those two operations are the only air attacks ever made to destroy a nuclear reactor. Operation Ofra and Operation Orchard took place in June 7, 1981 and September 6, 2007 respectively.
Besides proving itself durable and multi-purpose, the F-15 broke another record by successfully destroying a satellite using an ASM-135 anti-satellite (ASAT) missile. This remarkable achievement was made by USAF pilot Major Wilbert D. "Doug" Pearson. No other airplane has ever done this before or repeated it afterwards (yet).
The F-15 is durable, unique, efficient and overall an amazing aircraft, and although the USAF intends to replace it with the new F-22 Raptors (entered service in December 2005), the F-15 is expected to remain in service for quite some time. By estimations, The F-15’s awesome capabilities are supposed to sustain its service a little beyond 2025, not taking into account the newly proposed F-15SE.