Thirty-eight years ago this month, an USAF F-15A Eagle reached an altitude of 30 km (98,425 feet) 207.8 seconds from brake release. The pilot for the record-breaking mission was USAF Major Roger Smith.
Operation Streak Eagle was a mid-1970’s effort by the United States Air Force to set eight (8) separate time-to-climb records using the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Air Superiority Fighter. These record-setting flights originated from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Starting on Thursday, 16 January 1975, the 19th pre-production F-15 Eagle aircraft (S/N 72-0119) was used to establish the following time-to-climb records during Operation Streak Eagle:
3 km, 16 January 1975, 27.57 seconds, Major Roger Smith
6 km, 16 January 1975, 39.33 seconds, Major Willard Macfarlane
9 km, 16 January 1975, 48.86 seconds, Major Willard Macfarlane
12 km, 16 January 1975, 59.38 seconds, Major Willard Macfarlane
15 km, 16 January 1975, 77.02 seconds, Major David Peterson
20 km, 19 January 1975, 122.94 seconds, Major Roger Smith
25 km, 26 January 1975, 161.02 seconds, Major David Peterson
The eighth and final time-to-climb record attempt of Operation Streak Eagle took place on Saturday, 01 February 1975. The goal was to set a new time-to-climb record to 30 km. The pilot was required to wear a full pressure suit for this mission.
At a gross take-off weight of 31,908 pounds, the Streak Eagle aircraft had a thrust-to-weight ratio in excess of 1.4. The aircraft was restrained via a hold-down device as the two Pratt and Whitney F100 turbofan engines were spooled-up to full afterburner.
Following hold-down and brake release, the Streak Eagle quickly accelerated during a low level transition following take-off. At Mach 0.65, Smith pulled the aircraft into a 2.5-g Immelman. The Streak Eagle completed this maneuver 56 seconds from brake release at Mach 1.1 and 9.75 km. Rolling the aircraft upright, Smith continued to accelerate the Streak Eagle in a shallow climb.
At an elapsed time of 151 seconds and with the aircraft at Mach 2.2 and 11.3 km, Smith executed a 4-g pull to a 60-degree zoom climb. The Steak Eagle passed through 30 km at Mach 0.7 in an elapsed time of 207.8 seconds. The apex of the zoom trajectory was about 31.4 km. With a new record in hand, Smith uneventfully recovered the aircraft to Grand Forks AFB.
Operation Streak Eagle ended with the capturing of the 30 km time-to-climb record. In December 1980, the aircraft was retired to the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. It is currently held in storage at the Museum and no longer on public display.