It doesn’t have a sweet nickname like “The Bastard,” but the Israeli Air Force recently deployed a F-15B that several years ago was considered a total loss. The back half was ruined in a flight, but the front half was still good. Undeterred, the Israeli techs merely sutured the good half to the good half of another plane, to create this freak.
The project began in 2011 after a flock of pelicans flew straight into one of the aircraft’s engines, which sparked a fire and forced an emergency landing, according to Defense News. The entire rear half of the fighter jet was ruined, but the front part still seemed to work just fine. So what to do with a piece of nearly totaled junk?
After three years, the Israeli Air Force’s Depot 22 had an idea: a hybrid of sorts, matching the front of the aircraft—called Arrowhead—to the back-end of a F-15 that hasn’t been used for years and was sitting in a boneyard. Ingenious, really. The depot tried reaching out to Boeing to see if it was possible, reports Defense News, but it never heard back:
“When we started this project, we asked Boeing if it could be done, and we didn’t get an answer back,” Lt. Col. Maxim Orgad, commander of Depot 22’s Engineering Division, told Defense News. “So after several weeks went by and still no answer, we contacted them again about our plan to combine two separate aircraft. They said they never got back to us because they thought we were joking.”
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Depot 22 managed to get the thing flying again, though they didn’t quite say exactly how this monster handles.
But the project’s similar to what was done to The Bastard, the final SR-71 ever manufactured. The nickname for the SR-71C, according to Hill Air Force Base, stems from it being a weird mashup of the front half of an engineering mockup of an SR-71, and the rear half of a crashed YF-12. Colonel Richard Graham was an SR-71 pilot, and in his book SR-71 Revealed, he described The Bastard as truly living up to its name (emphasis ours):
The “C” model remained in storage at Beale [Air Force Base] and was to be used only if the “B” model was going to be grounded for an extended period of time. Maintenance named the “C” model “The Bastard” because of its hybrid origin. They hated to work on the aircraft because it didn’t conform to standard SR-71 maintenance procedures and was difficult to troubleshoot and repair. I was fortunate enough to fly the “C” model twice during my training because [SR-71 number] “956" was undergoing heavy maintenance. It had a reduced fuel capacity and, consequently, accelerated better because of its greater thrust-to-weight ratio. It flew strangely – the needle and ball never centered because it was in a constant yaw. Subsonic, it handled like all the other SR-71s.
Frankensteining a lost cause isn’t a bad way to save a little cash. A member of the Israeli Air Force’s Depot 22 told Defense News that the Arrowhead project cost just under $1 million.
“Today, to buy an aircraft like this would cost more than $40 million,” the official said. Not a bad deal.