Why the F-15 Eagle is the Best Fighter Aircraft of All Time

F-15E Strike Eagle usaf
USAF F-15E Strike Eagle


“What is the best fighter aircraft of all time?” It seems like a straightforward question, and the answer should be simple in theory. The F-22 Raptor outperforms every other fighter aircraft, including the newer U.S. fighter jet, the F-35. Some would justifiably call it the best fighter of all times, but it can also be argued that the most important criteria when judging a fighter aircraft are.

F-15E Strike Eagle
An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron flies over Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, May 10. The 492nd trains regularly to ensure RAF Lakenheath brings unique air combat capabilities to the fight. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

As the name implies, its performance in actual aerial “fights.” With this criterion in mind, both the F-22 and F-35 cannot be called the best fighters because they have not yet seen a fight and, most notably, fight with other aircraft that are at least comparable in terms of performance.

F-15E Strike Eagle
F-15C Eagle takes off to conduct its final defensive counter air vul during Weapons School Integration 21-B at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 8, 2021 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Battle hardened

The F-15, on the other hand, has seen its fair share of battles. It has been up against other aircraft of the same generation and faced even odds in many circumstances. Yet, in all its aerial engagements, which are too many to list, it has emerged victorious with currently a 104-0 score.

F-15E Strike Eagle
An F-15 Eagle, with the 159th Fighter Wing, Louisiana, flies over the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 914th Air Refueling Wing, New York

That’s 104 aircraft shot down by the F-15’s and not a single F-15 downed in combat against another plane. The 50-year-old plane is still used extensively and will remain in service for decades.

However, the new F-15EX Eagle II iteration of the aircraft aims to make it as powerful and modern as it always was. Over the years, it has evolved to meet the needs of the Air force and address the new challenges of contemporary warfare.

F-15E Strike Eagle
An F-15E Strike Eagle departs after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)


The exceptional versatility of the plane is also praiseworthy. The all-weather, fast, and maneuverable plane was designed with air superiority in mind. It was built to penetrate deep into the enemy airspace and clear the sky of enemy aircraft. During the war in Vietnam, it became apparent that aircraft were vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles.

Often, there was little to nothing that a pilot could do to evade those missiles fired at them, mainly because the plane had limited maneuverability. The F-15 was designed to address this problem, and a capable pilot would be able to dodge the oncoming missiles when flying it.

F-15E Strike Eagle
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron

King of the skies

The plane was also a huge stepping stone when it came to the philosophy of designing an aircraft that can do it all, which is the direction in which the future of military aviation is heading. According to some experts, the overall performance of the modern iterations of the fourth generation F-15, makes it comparable to the Russian fifth generation Su-57.

F-15E Strike Eagle
F-15EX Eagle II assigned to the 40th Flight Test Squadron, 96th Test Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

There is no doubt that the F-15 is the undisputed king of the skies and another interesting question is whether or not there will ever be an aircraft that will dethrone it. And the answer is “probably not.” Considering that the 5th generation fighters are built with different strategies in mind, it is not likely that we will ever see a dogfight between them.

F-15E Strike Eagle cockpit
A close-up view of an F-15 Eagle aircraft instrument panel

The stealth combined with “shoot and forget missiles” means that the pilot who spots the enemy first and fires first, wins. This type of aerial combat is hard to describe as fighting in the traditional sense. This means that the F-15 is not just the best fighter aircraft now but will likely be the best fighter aircraft ever built.