Some Eagles Cleared to Fly

Well, it looks as if the story of F-15 groundings has taken a new turn today.f-15E-bank.jpg

Air Combat Command headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, Va., lifted flight restrictions on newer F-15E Strike Eagles after the service grounded the fleet Nov. 3.

From The Telegraph of Macon, Ga.:

Air Force officials are taking steps to lift the grounding orders on at least part of its F-15 fleet.

Air Combat Command, headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, Va., has cleared the way for F-15Es, the newest of the supersonic fighters, to return to action if they pass a detailed visual and non-destructive inspection.

The fleetwide grounding - affecting 676 aircraft - was ordered Nov. 3 following the crash the day before of an older F-15C near Salem, Mo. The Air Force has 224 E models of the F-15.

How long the remainder of the fleet will be grounded was unclear Wednesday.

Robins Air Force Base officials were not immediately available to comment on the latest action, although F-15 flight testing was conducted at the installation Wednesday.

The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins provides worldwide management and support and periodic overhaul for the twin-engined Boeing-McDonnell Douglas aircraft.

Our readers caught the issue early on, suggesting a structural flaw with the aircraft that could have contributed to an F-15C crash in Missouri Nov. 2 though we were off a bit in the location of the structural problem.

According to a tapped in source who contacted Defense Tech, the Av Week story we posted a couple days ago was correct on the general location of the structural failure. More specifically, our source tells us the separation occurred behind the ECS bay and could have been the result of a faulty repair years ago.

The notion that the F-15 crash and subsequent grounding stems from a known structural problem with the Eagle, however, isnt right, our source tells us.

Fortunately, its the F-15E thats the version being employed in Afghanistan and Iraq. So when shooters call in for support from the air, Strike Eagle can now make the hop to help.

I suspect the lifting of flight restrictions on E model F-15s will not undercut the case for more F-22s, since the A in F/A-22 was added later, and the threat the Air Force keeps using to sell the plane is advanced-generation fighters in the hands of enemy regimes. Well stay on top of this story; and please keep me posted on what you all are hearing.

-- Christian

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