The F-15 that was severely damaged and forced to perform a crash landing after being hit by a flock of pelicans, will soon return to operational duty. The AMU (Aerial Maintenance Unit) has been working on it since 2014 and it is currently undergoing its first test flights

Vered Talala

In June, 2011, a two-seater “Baz” (F-15) from the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron took off from Tel-Nof AFB and when it reached 3,000 feet, a flock of pelicans hit it. The pilot and WSO immediately performed a crash landing and in the aftermath of the crash, the rear part of the jet was severely damaged.

The AMU (Aerial Maintenance Unit) personnel have been laboring on the project and working to put the jet back in the air in a unique way, which is considered precedential in the world: the rear part of the damaged jet was replaced with the rear part of a different, single-seater F-15, that was out of service for 20 years.

Last week, after a long restoration period in the AMU, the FTC (Flight Test Center) performed the jet’s first test flight. “The first flight was successful. Everything went according to plan”, said Lt. Col. Rotem, Head Test Pilot in the FTC who was the first to fly the jet. In the near future FTC personnel will continue testing the jet until it will pass all of the necessary flight tests, upon which it will return to the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron and to operational activity.

The F-15 that Could

New Life
According to the primary restoration assessment the jet’s the central and rear  parts were damaged beyond repair as a result of the engine burning.

With time, came the solution: “A single-seater F-15 jet, tail number 314 was in storage in Ouvda AFB. We removed its cockpit and connected the cockpit of the two-seater to the fuselage of the older F-15. The cockpit of the two-seater is more advanced and includes all of the upgrades performed in the IAF’s new jets”.

Besides them both being F-15, they aren’t identical so the connection between them required a miracle. “It was a borderline impossible job, we had to map every wire and understand where they fit and which system they belong to”, said Lt. Col. Maxim Orgad, Commander of the AMU’s Engineering Department.

The F-15 that Could

The First Test Flight
In August, the newly restored “Baz” underwent its final series of tests in the AMU before checking it off for test flights.

“It is one of the critical stages”, said Maj. Vadim Retner, the leader of the project in the Engineering Department. “The first series of tests we ran on the jet was successful and the systems we tested worked as we expected them to. It was very exciting to see the jet that was once burnt and dismantled, working just like new”.

After completing the tests, the jet was moved to the FTC and in its first flight test that was held last week and was about 15 minutes long, the squadron personnel performed a primary test of all of the jet’s systems. The pilot who led the test program and who flew it for the first time is no other than the pilot who managed to miraculously land it after it was hit by a flock of pelicans. “It is closure for me”, said Lt. Col. Rotem.

The F-15 that Could

On the Way to Operational Shape
“This is a challenging project engineering-wise”, shared Lt. Col. Orgad. “We studied the jet’s systems and structure and figured out the correct solution. In addition, this project gives the engineers pride and motivation. They built a jet from scratch”.

“This is a unique project in the world that was based only on the IAF’s Technical Division’s professionalism, determination and the ability of IAF personnel in HQ and in the field, on the ground and in the air, to cooperate for a mutual mission”, said Col. Gadi, Commander of the AMU. “We will write another chapter in the history of the unit and the technical division when we will get the jet back to full operational ability as quickly as possible”.