RAF buys F-15Cs. Can they be used in the Falklands War?

Long time lurker but first time poster; hopefully this isn't too ASB or anything.

My scenario is that the RAF buy F-15C/D Eagles & then deploy them from Ascension Island during the Falklands War. Assuming the jets are ordered in 1979 (after Margaret Thatcher wins the election), with them entering service in 1981.
I'm trying not to get too much into the nitty gritty of how the UK gets the Eagles but I understand the cost of them may well be an issue that may require an earlier POD. However, my thoughts / concerns are more with the following issues:

1 - Can F-15Cs be converted to the RAF air to air refueling (Probe & Drogue) method? As far as I'm aware, all F-15 operators use the USAF boom method. However, I'm aware UK F-4s were converted to use Probe & Drogue so perhaps it's theoretically possible.

2 - Would the RAF have enough tanker support to get CAPs down to the Falkland Islands? I understand it took a large tanker footprint to get the Vulcan Black Buck raids to the Falklands from RAF Ascension Island (11 tankers for 2 Vulcans, according to Wikipedia).
I wouldn't expect 24/7 BARCAP but certainly an ability to cover RN ships during the landings & perhaps the ability to deter Etendard-Exocet attacks.

Assumptions:
1 - F-15C/Ds would operate with Conformal Fuel Tanks as well as x2 / x3 drop tanks. I understand the former will reduce aerodynamic performance in WVR fights but I imagine the range situation requires them, especially for if drop tanks have to be, well, dropped in combat.

Range from Ascension to Port Stanley return flight = 6,600 nautical miles.
F-15C combat radius = circa 1000 nautical miles.
Ferry range: 3,000 nmi with CFTs & x3 EFT.

2 - F-15 SCL = 4x Skyflash, 4x AIM-9L (& 20mm Vulcan cannon).

Hopefully I haven't missed anything that could be a total show stopper but apologies if I have. I can't imagine the F-15 would have any issues in particular with any jets of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina.

PS - If you think that the F-14 Tomcat for the RAF in this situation would work better, feel free to say so. I went for the Eagle due to its longer range & superb combat record.
 
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Range from Ascension to Port Stanley return flight = 6,600 nautical miles.
F-15C combat radius = circa 1000 nautical miles.
Ferry range: 3,000 nmi with CFTs & x3 EFT.
The ferry range with CFTs and three external tanks is 2294 nautical miles. Source:

2 - F-15 SCL = 4x Skyflash, 4x AIM-9L (& 20mm Vulcan cannon).
Not happening with 3 fuel tanks. The two wing tanks take up the Sidewinder stations, so you're stuck with just four Sparrows. This is one area where the F-14A has an advantage: it doesn't need to lose missiles to carry two drop tanks.

In any case, it takes the complete loads of two tankers to get a single F-15C just to the Falklands. Then double that to get them back. And then you have to refuel some of the Victors on tanking duty, because they don't have the range to make the flight either. And then the fact that the Eagles aren't drinking every drop of fuel so the refueling isn't as efficient as I'm making it out to be. And then you gotta reserve fuel for combat.

Frankly, you'd be lucky to sustain two Eagles, which is just not going to cut it.
 
The ferry range with CFTs and three external tanks is 2294 nautical miles. Source:


Not happening with 3 fuel tanks. The two wing tanks take up the Sidewinder stations, so you're stuck with just four Sparrows. This is one area where the F-14A has an advantage: it doesn't need to lose missiles to carry two drop tanks.

In any case, it takes the complete loads of two tankers to get a single F-15C just to the Falklands. Then double that to get them back. And then you have to refuel some of the Victors on tanking duty, because they don't have the range to make the flight either. And then the fact that the Eagles aren't drinking every drop of fuel so the refueling isn't as efficient as I'm making it out to be. And then you gotta reserve fuel for combat.

Frankly, you'd be lucky to sustain two Eagles, which is just not going to cut it.
You may be correct about the tanking situation, but every source I can find online (including the USAF page on the F-15C) quotes 3,000 nautical miles.
& just over 36,000lbs of fuel) .


I'm aware that this will be dependent on a multitude of variables and the use of reheat / combat manoeuvring will increase fuel consumption massively.

I can definitely find images of flying F-15Cs with 3 EFTs & a full weapons loadout. I've attached one.
58thSQ-EaglebANKSDS.jpg
I will say that it doesn't seem like CFTs were all that commonly used, except maybe by 57th FIS in Iceland (Soviet Bears aren't exactly going to out manoeuvre them one would think).
 
I think it would be possible to adapt probe refuelling to the F15, but that doesn't make the mission possible. The usual IFR procedure is to use 45% of the onboard fuel and then top up the tanks, so if the refuelling fails the plane can return to base, and the F15 just doesn't carry enough fuel for this to occur safely so the chances of a crash for a simple error would be extremely high resulting in the loss of the pilot and plane in the South Atlantic.

Other things would be pilot fatigue being strapped in the cockpit for like 14 hours, pissing into a piss tube and not being able to have a drink in the dehydrating atmosphere of the plane. Another would be the oil capacity, I don't know if the F15 has enough oil capacity to fly for 12-14 hours.

I don't think CFTs were cleared for service use in 1982
 
The ferry range with CFTs and three external tanks is 2294 nautical miles. Source:


Not happening with 3 fuel tanks. The two wing tanks take up the Sidewinder stations, so you're stuck with just four Sparrows. This is one area where the F-14A has an advantage: it doesn't need to lose missiles to carry two drop tanks.

In any case, it takes the complete loads of two tankers to get a single F-15C just to the Falklands. Then double that to get them back. And then you have to refuel some of the Victors on tanking duty, because they don't have the range to make the flight either. And then the fact that the Eagles aren't drinking every drop of fuel so the refueling isn't as efficient as I'm making it out to be. And then you gotta reserve fuel for combat.

Frankly, you'd be lucky to sustain two Eagles, which is just not going to cut it.
The wing tanks don't take Sidewinder stations. The Aim-9 rails are fitted on the side of the pylons. Standard deployment configuration was ' 3 bags, 900 rounds 4 AIM-7s and 4 AIM-9s. And C models did not have conformal tank capability a the time. The problem is not really fuel it is Pilot fatigue. Sitting in the same seat for the hours needed for the flight is very tiring. Muscle cramps were common on long flights. On top of that the pilot would have to wear a survival suit so they have any chance of survival in case they go down.

In '82 I was doing maintenance debriefing in 1 TFW. I debriefed pilots who were flying '3 bag' (3 external tank) missions at Gallant Eagle 82 while the Falklands were going on. Those pilots were TIRED when they got out of the airplanes. They were always dehydrated (pressurized air is dry. the big clear canopy lets a lot of sunlight in when you are above the clouds). ANd they can't drink a lot of water ahead of time or during the flight because with the survival suit on they can't use the 'piddle packs' to relieve themselves (Something they hated doing anytime)

And something else I just thought about - There isn't enough LOX on board for that long of a flight.
 
Pilot fatigue is the key issue here even if you can work out the fuel and tanking issues. It is about the same distance from Ascension to the Falklands as it is from Houston to Honolulu. Would you want to fly from Houston to Honolulu in a fighter plane, conduct your mission, and then fly back? I've done that flight in the back of a 777, that was bad enough.
 
Long time lurker but first time poster; hopefully this isn't too ASB or anything.

My scenario is that the RAF buy F-15C/D Eagles & then deploy them from Ascension Island during the Falklands War. Assuming the jets are ordered in 1979 (after Margaret Thatcher wins the election), with them entering service in 1981.
I'm trying not to get too much into the nitty gritty of how the UK gets the Eagles but I understand the cost of them may well be an issue that may require an earlier POD. However, my thoughts / concerns are more with the following issues:

1 - Can F-15Cs be converted to the RAF air to air refueling (Probe & Drogue) method? As far as I'm aware, all F-15 operators use the USAF boom method. However, I'm aware UK F-4s were converted to use Probe & Drogue so perhaps it's theoretically possible.

2 - Would the RAF have enough tanker support to get CAPs down to the Falkland Islands? I understand it took a large tanker footprint to get the Vulcan Black Buck raids to the Falklands from RAF Ascension Island (11 tankers for 2 Vulcans, according to Wikipedia).
I wouldn't expect 24/7 BARCAP but certainly an ability to cover RN ships during the landings & perhaps the ability to deter Etendard-Exocet attacks.

Assumptions:
1 - F-15C/Ds would operate with Conformal Fuel Tanks as well as x2 / x3 drop tanks. I understand the former will reduce aerodynamic performance in WVR fights but I imagine the range situation requires them, especially for if drop tanks have to be, well, dropped in combat.

Range from Ascension to Port Stanley return flight = 6,600 nautical miles.
F-15C combat radius = circa 1000 nautical miles.
Ferry range: 3,000 nmi with CFTs & x3 EFT.

2 - F-15 SCL = 4x Skyflash, 4x AIM-9L (& 20mm Vulcan cannon).

Hopefully I haven't missed anything that could be a total show stopper but apologies if I have. I can't imagine the F-15 would have any issues in particular with any jets of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina.

PS - If you think that the F-14 Tomcat for the RAF in this situation would work better, feel free to say so. I went for the Eagle due to its longer range & superb combat record.
Interesting thread so far..

Assuming the oil and oxygen (and perhaps other key consumable) supplies were sufficient, and the RAF was willing to accept loosing aircraft due to refuling, mechanical and other non combat reasons, maybe an occasional fighter sweep could have been flown by one or two two seaters. Perhaps using two seater aircraft might have helped with pilot fatigue ? This all seems rather unlikely to me.

Maybe an occasional fighter sweep across likely flight paths of Argentine strike air craft might be useful ?

All that being said, figuring out how to arm Vulcans with Sparrow / Skyflash seems a better way to achieve such a result.

Edit to add: I seem to recall the Canadians and the Russians have both flown long peace time fighter missions to the high arctic on occasion (IIRC the Canadians have on occasion carried out over flights of the North Pole and I recall reports of Russian fighters escorting bombers during recent probing flights.) I have no idea how these types of flights might contrast to a notional flights discussed in this thread.
 
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The best you’d manage is the occasional two ship patrol of less then half an hour over the islands. So a publicity stunt for the RAF, just like Black Buck. Now once Stanley is captured the F-15s could deploy out there but by that point the war is basically all over but the crying.
 
The F-15 C/D variant first flew in 1979.
Do you think it is feasible for them to be delivered and declared operational by 1981 for the UK? Sounds like a rather „tight“ schedule to me.
 
The best you’d manage is the occasional two ship patrol of less then half an hour over the islands. So a publicity stunt for the RAF, just like Black Buck. Now once Stanley is captured the F-15s could deploy out there but by that point the war is basically all over but the crying.
I was thinking more of perhaps trying to catch Argentine aircraft at high altitude close to their home bases.

Edit to add:

Maybe try and intercept the Argentine Tanker aircraft. Destroying one or both of them might justify the risks of such a mission (if it was even possible.)

I suspect modifying Vulcans or other longer ranged air craft would likely be a better way to fly such missions, although perhaps the modern radar of the F15 might have been seen as providing enough extra capability in this fictional time line to make using F15's worth the risks.
 
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Thanks all for the replies.
Yeah it certainly seems like a bit of a non-starter to get Eagles down to the Falklands with logistical footprint, pilot fatigue etc, especially if CFTs aren't available in 1982. I can't find introduction date for them online I must admit.
I did think that this was a long shot due to the distances involved but thanks for all your insights.
Unless Chile is prepared to give the RAF basing rights (or another island suddenly appears in the South Atlantic with a 10,000ft runway on), anything other than F-15Cs at Ascension escorting tankers some of the way for Black Buck seems a rather far fetched scenario (apparently UK F-4s did this).
 
Just another thought, I remember seeing something on the news during the early days of the fighting in Afghanistan that talked about the extensive effort the USAF went to get a few (like four) F-15Es to strike targets in Afghanistan from bases in Saudi Arabia. That was a round trip of about 3000 miles give or take and in this scenario we are talking about a round trip of about 8000 miles.
 
The F-15 C/D variant first flew in 1979.
Do you think it is feasible for them to be delivered and declared operational by 1981 for the UK? Sounds like a rather „tight“ schedule to me.
Given the relationship between The U.S. and U.K. it would be tight but doable, especially in the context of Falklands. But that doesn't resolve the operational problems of such a long flight. Two seaters don't help. What you gain in having a second person to share the load you lose in extra oxygen load (the Lox bottle in the D model isn't that much bigger if at all than the one in the C model. The E model might have gained extra capacity but that was still being developed at the time).
 

CalBear

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Long time lurker but first time poster; hopefully this isn't too ASB or anything.

My scenario is that the RAF buy F-15C/D Eagles & then deploy them from Ascension Island during the Falklands War. Assuming the jets are ordered in 1979 (after Margaret Thatcher wins the election), with them entering service in 1981.
I'm trying not to get too much into the nitty gritty of how the UK gets the Eagles but I understand the cost of them may well be an issue that may require an earlier POD. However, my thoughts / concerns are more with the following issues:

1 - Can F-15Cs be converted to the RAF air to air refueling (Probe & Drogue) method? As far as I'm aware, all F-15 operators use the USAF boom method. However, I'm aware UK F-4s were converted to use Probe & Drogue so perhaps it's theoretically possible.

2 - Would the RAF have enough tanker support to get CAPs down to the Falkland Islands? I understand it took a large tanker footprint to get the Vulcan Black Buck raids to the Falklands from RAF Ascension Island (11 tankers for 2 Vulcans, according to Wikipedia).
I wouldn't expect 24/7 BARCAP but certainly an ability to cover RN ships during the landings & perhaps the ability to deter Etendard-Exocet attacks.

Assumptions:
1 - F-15C/Ds would operate with Conformal Fuel Tanks as well as x2 / x3 drop tanks. I understand the former will reduce aerodynamic performance in WVR fights but I imagine the range situation requires them, especially for if drop tanks have to be, well, dropped in combat.

Range from Ascension to Port Stanley return flight = 6,600 nautical miles.
F-15C combat radius = circa 1000 nautical miles.
Ferry range: 3,000 nmi with CFTs & x3 EFT.

2 - F-15 SCL = 4x Skyflash, 4x AIM-9L (& 20mm Vulcan cannon).

Hopefully I haven't missed anything that could be a total show stopper but apologies if I have. I can't imagine the F-15 would have any issues in particular with any jets of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina.

PS - If you think that the F-14 Tomcat for the RAF in this situation would work better, feel free to say so. I went for the Eagle due to its longer range & superb combat record.
You are going to lose much of your ferry range. Ferry means clean, no weapons, often not even ammo for the internal gun. the missiles and racks are going to ruin that. They will also limit the number of drop tanks. There is also the matter of combat. Ferry is done at maximum fuel saving throttle settings, those are out the window. At best you are going to be at 1/3 ferry going in, coming out (assuming ACM/jettison of drop tanks) figure the first tanking at 400 miles from the combat area (and that is generous) and then a fill-up every 850 miles coming out. Even this will only give you a max of 20 minutes at military power over the target area.
 
Just another thought, I remember seeing something on the news during the early days of the fighting in Afghanistan that talked about the extensive effort the USAF went to get a few (like four) F-15Es to strike targets in Afghanistan from bases in Saudi Arabia. That was a round trip of about 3000 miles give or take and in this scenario we are talking about a round trip of about 8000 miles.
I wonder why they didn't use B1's or B52's ?
 
I wonder why they didn't use B1's or B52's ?
I think they used those too but they were flying all the way from Diego. Honestly, I remember thinking at the time that the missions sounded like a bit of a PR stunt on the part of the USAF to show that they were contributing because USN CV ops in the Arabian Sea were getting a lot of publicity.
 
I wonder why they didn't use B1's or B52's ?
In 2001 I'm fairly sure neither the B1, B2 or B52 had the capability to use laser guided bombs yet, the F-15E did and having the Special Forces with laser designators was a key factor in beating the Taliban so quickly
 
In 2001 I'm fairly sure neither the B1, B2 or B52 had the capability to use laser guided bombs yet, the F-15E did and having the Special Forces with laser designators was a key factor in beating the Taliban so quickly
The big bombers had PGM capabilities, they were JDAMs not LGBs and the heavy bombers did employ them in Afghanistan. In fact the B-2 used GPS guided bombs in Kosovo. I'm not sure the heavy bombers have ever used LGBs.
 
The big bombers had PGM capabilities, they were JDAMs not LGBs and the heavy bombers did employ them in Afghanistan. In fact the B-2 used GPS guided bombs in Kosovo. I'm not sure the heavy bombers have ever used LGBs.
Which doesn't challenge my point. The Big bombers could not use laser guided bombs at the time, though they were upgraded to do so later. Laser guided bombs were important to the Afghanistan campaign as they were better able to support the rapidly advancing Northern Alliance than the GPS guided munitions of the time, hence why such great lengths were taken to use F-15E's
 
So a publicity stunt for the RAF, just like Black Buck.
I won't speak to the issue of F-15Cs but Black Buck wasn't a publicity stunt. Hell, it was apparently suggested by a surface Royal Navy officer. Aside from the actual damage caused during the mission its main aim, which it was successful in doing, was demonstrating that it could operate at that distance. For the Junta it didn't take them long to realise that if they could reach the Falklands then they could reach Argentina, which immediately created a potential new threat without the UK having to expand, or threaten to expand, the war to there.
 
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