January 31, 1989: Edwards Conducts First Phase of F‑15 STOL Tests

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The Short Take off and Landing/ Maneuver Technology Demonstrator Joint Test Force completed the first phase of F‑15 STOL tests. The goal of the program was to demonstrate that an F-15 fitted with new technologies could land without navigational aid from the ground, on a bumpy field only 1,500 feet in length and 50 feet wide at night, in bad weather, with a 30 knot crosswind.

In 1975, Langley Research Center began to conduct sponsored programs studying two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles; government and industry studies of non-axisymmetric two-dimensional (2-D) nozzles in the early 1970s had identified significant payoffs for thrust-vectoring 2-D nozzle concepts.  In 1977, Langley started a system integration study of thrust-vectoring, thrust-reversing, and 2-D nozzles on the F-15 with McDonnell Douglas. In 1984, the Flight Dynamics Laboratory, the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division awarded a contract to McDonnell Douglas for an advanced development STOL/MTD experimental aircraft.  The aircraft used in the STOL/MTD program has flown several times since the successful STOL/MTD program completion in 1991 that used thrust vectoring and canard foreplanes to improve low-speed performance. This aircraft tested high-tech methods for operating from a short runway. This F-15 was part of an effort to improve ABO (Air Base Operability), the survival of warplanes and fighting capability at airfields under attack.

The F-15 STOL/MTD tested ways to land and take off from wet, bomb-damaged runways. The aircraft used a combination of reversible engine thrust, jet nozzles that could be deflected by 20 degrees, and canard foreplanes. Pitch vectoring/reversing nozzles and canard foreplanes were fitted to the F-15 in 1988. NASA acquired the plane in 1993 and replaced the engines with Pratt & Whitney F100-229 engines with Pitch/Yaw vectoring nozzles.  The canard foreplanes were derived from the F/A-18's stabilators.  Prior to August 15, 1991, when McDonnell Douglas ended its program after accomplishing their flight objectives, the F-15 STOL/MTD plane achieved some impressive performance results:

  • Demonstrated vectored takeoffs with rotation at speeds as low as 42 mph
  • A 25-percent reduction in takeoff roll
  • Landing on just 1,650 feet of runway compared to 7,500 foot for the standard F-15
  • Thrust reversal in flight to produce rapid deceleration


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