We’ll Get Right On That

Remember this time last year when a sizable portion of the Air Force’s F-15 A-D fleet was still grounded due to the mid-air breakup of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C in November 2007? The failure of a structural part called a longeron near the cockpit was the culprit, and the event caused grave concern over what other fatigue-related structural issues might be lurking in the aging F-15 fleet. So much so that Gen. John Corley, head of Air Combat Command, called the situation a “crisis” and said he was “desperate” for hard data to inform him on the viability of the fleet. To find those hidden potential flaws, the Air Force said it planned to conduct a stress test on an operational F-15 and get the results in about a year. However, something has changed, as there’s not much alacrity in the process, nor is there apparently any urgency to it. According to Air Force Materiel Command, a contract to do the stress test won’t even be awarded until the summer. Assuming a September go-ahead, the schedule for actual testing is October 2011 to December 2014, an AFMC spokeswoman told the Daily Report. Why so long? “This will allow the contractor time to plan, design, build, and test the fixture for the fatigue test,” she said. A representative F-15 has yet to be chosen, but before it undergoes the stress test, it will go through depot “to address corrosion or other structural defects,” she said. We thought that was what the test was supposed to figure out—that and the useful service life of the fleet, which, counting from the F-15C crash, will be seven years older when the test is done.