Streak Eagle

Streak Eagle Drivers: Maj. Roger Smith, Maj. Dave W. Peterson, and Maj. William R. "Mack" MacFarlane

January 17th, 1975 a lone F-15A was stripped of its paint, speed brake and flap actuators, radar and fire control systems, unneeded cockpit instrumentation, generators, redundant radios and anything that could be left on the ground.  Engineers even removed her Vulcan 20 mm cannon, and all external pylons leaving a super clean, slick, light and powerful F-15A Eagle that had only one place to go...UP!

The goal was to steal the crown from the Soviets that held the record for reaching the highest altitudes from a stationary start on the runway.  The MIG-25 "Foxbat," held the three highest positions since 1973. Prior to the Foxbat, previous altitude records had been held by the USAF F-4 "Phantom" since 1962. 

Streak Eagle had one mission, and that was to smash the "time to climb" records held by the Soviet Foxbat. 

Streak Eagle was held in place at the end of the runway while hooked up to a hold-back bar, as the pilot applied full afterburner, the explosive bolt detonated, suddenly freeing the Eagle to accelerate down the active. Rotating after only 400 feet of runway, Streak Eagle pulled into a 80 degree climb while accelerating through the speed of sound. Like a homesick angel with her low fuel levels, bare skin and minimal equipment, sporting a thrust to weight ratio of nearly 2:1, She sliced through the lower atmosphere like a hot knife through butter. At altitudes, the Streak Eagle even managed to beat the climb rate of the Apollo Saturn V Rocket!

After the initial climb, the pilot kept a sustained 2.5G pull coming back over the base inverted at 32,000 feet.  Rolling out, the super slick jet, then accelerating to over two times the speed of sound and pulling 4Gs into a 60 degree climb.

 Streak Eagle reached an altitude of 98,425 feet just 3 minutes, 27.8 seconds from brake release and "coasted" on the highest attempt reaching 103,000 feet in altitude. The pilot in the attempt to utilize every last bit of energy, kept Streak Eagle in its climb until airspeed bleed off to as little as 55 knots...only then pushing the stick forward and back towards the Earth. During the coast phase, her engines had to be shut down before overheating, or flaming out due to lack of air density.  During the descent phase, engines were restarted to allow a powered approach back to base.  

Streak Eagle broke eight time-to-climb world records between January 16th and 1st of February 1975,  After proving that Eagles dare, she was delivered to the National Museum Of The United States Air Force where she still remains today.





  • Bryan

    Hi gang,
    Thanks for the continuing stream of great posts. I’m about 99.9% sure that the correct first name for one of the pilots is “Rogers” with the “s” vs “Roger.” I thought you might like to edit the post. (BTW, for those of us who are no longer 24-year old steely-eyed Lieutenants, the small gray type is a little challenging to read, especially on a phone display. Recommend using black.) Keep up the great stories!

  • Gary D Robinson

    I was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base when this happened. It was something to see and hear. Bright sunny day not at cloud in the sky and about -10 deg.

  • Dave Jones

    I was a Flight Test Engineer student at the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB California when Col. Smith was practicing for his flight. I was in another aircraft with a student Test Pilot waiting for the bolt to blow cutting the tether. It seemed that in the blink of an eye, that Streak Eagle was gone! One doesn’t forget something like that!

  • Bill Crain

    Col Smith (then Major Smith) flew 15-16 missions on which I was a piggyback with a heavily modified and instrumented AIM 9E missile at Eglin AFB during he 1981-83 timeframe. Col Smith was the commander of the test wing a Eglin during that time. We were trying to capture heating data on a store in captive carriage as part of the Store Heating Project between AFATL and AEDC. During the flights over the DMZ to deliver ordnance on targets, stores on the returning aircraft would have tritonal which had melted and had oozed out of the fuze threads and flowed back along the bomb. So we ( Dick Matthews Aerothermodynamics Test Group at Arnold Engineering Development Center) were investigating the problem The mission to acquire the heating data called for a long duration (5-10 minutes) cruise at 40 Kft, followed by a split S maneuver which put the A/C at ~Mach 2+ and after a 4 g pullout it was to make a 3 minute run at 20Kft. This would cold soak the store wall to a cold temp and then as quickly as possible immerse it in a “hot” environment and give us the heating data we needed. During the firs t several attempts the max Mach attained was 1.4 which quickly bled off to just above sonic. After several tries it was determined that the F-15 couldn’t even do the Dash 1 requirements. Consequently, Col Smith took over and began flying our missions. I believe that the problem began showing up world wide and the F-15 was grounded till it could be determined what the problem was. (I may be off on that but that is my recollection). It turned out that the engines had been detuned in two operations separated in time by a large amount. This was done to lower the stress on the high performance compressor blades. Each individual step was not a problem but cumulatively it was a game changer. I was just fortunate enough to be a tag along (piggyback) and got the guy who set the worlds altitude record in the F-15 to fly all my missions. Needless to say we acquired LOTS of data. Good memories.

  • Kevin B

    When I was but a young boy I found a book at the book store that took me three weeks to earn. It was a coffee table book on the Streak Eagle flight. It is the one book I wish I still had as an adult.

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