On 26 June 1972, the first of 12 pre-production demonstrator prototype YF-15A Eagles, Airframe # 10280 (later 71-0280), rolled out of the McDonnell Douglas hangar in St. Louis.
In USAF “Air Superiority Blue,” 10280 carries Sparrow AIM7 mockups and full-color markings
Just over a month later, on 27 July 27, 1972, decked out in high-viz orange test markings and under the control of McDonnell Douglas chief test pilot Irving L. Burrows, 10280 took to the California skies over Edwards AFB, the type’s first test flight.
The first pre-production prototype McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, YF-15A-1-MC 72-0280, on its first flight near Edwards Air Force Base, California. Note the with McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II chase plane. (U.S. Air Force)
Six months after that, the Air Force ordered the type into full production and the rest, as they say, is history.
To date, F-15s have shot down 104+ enemy aircraft, mostly assorted MiGs, for zero air-to-air losses, leaving them with a serious claim of being the current, “World’s largest distributor of MiG parts.”
For those curious, 0280 is on display today at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
The same photographer recently took these two shots from the same aspect at Hill AFB in Utah, and they really contrast the two fighters, showing off the best of 1986 vs the best of today.
A McDonnell Douglas F-15C-41-MC [86-0155 / AF86-155] Eagle from the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing takes off from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, for a training mission with the 388th Fighter Wing, June 22, 2021. The 125th Fighter Wing is scheduled to receive F-35A Lightning IIs in the next few years and spent the week flying alongside the first operational F-35A unit, the 388th Fighter Wing, sharing tactics, techniques, and procedures to better each flying unit’s readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner)
An F-35A Lightning II from the 388th Fighter Wing takes off from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, for a training mission, June 22, 2021. The 388th Fighter Wing’s mission is to employ combat power with the Air Force’s most advanced 5th-generation fighter, and works to do so alongside the Air Force Reserve’s 419th Fighter Wing in a total-force partnership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Kip Sumner).
Constructed at St. Louis and delivered to the Air Force in 1986, 86-0155 has been assigned to the Florida Guard since 2006, flying from various bases in the Sunshine State on NORAD taskings, deploying to Europe in 2015 as part of the composite 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, in addition to its CONUS ADF duties. The airframe that rolled off the line just after, 86-0156, gained fame at the hands of Capt Jeffrey Hwang (48th FW, 493rd FS, RAF Lakenheath) when he shot down two JRV MiG-29s with AIM-120As26 March 1999 during Operation Allied Force.