F-15 Shake Out

The Air Force likely will divide up its grounded F-15 A-D Eagles into three categories in the near future, USAF acquisition official Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman predicted Thursday, talking with reporters after a Capitol Hill symposium. Hoffman said he expects some of the F-15s—those that were going to be taken out of service in a year or two anyway due to age—likely won’t be repaired and will simply be retired early. The Air Force probably would fix those in “the best shape,” replacing their longerons. A third group might not get new longerons but will fly; however, they will have to undergo far more frequent and intensive inspections. Hoffman said there’s “no way” to strip every F-15 down to its bare spars and check for other problems like the under-spec thickness of the longerons that led to the crash of an F-15C last November. That crash prompted the subsequent long-term grounding of most of the F-15 fleet and the discovery of potential catastrophic flaws in about 160 of the airplanes. Upon inspection, nine were found to have cracked longerons. Those aircraft have little in common, coming from different production groups: Two were made in 1978, four in 1980, two in 1981, and one in 1985. And, they are scattered at various bases worldwide.