In 1948, when the USAAF became the USAF, the "F" for Photographic and the "P" for Pursuit were dropped, the latter was replaced by "F" for fighter, while the former became the pre-fix "R" for Reconnaissance. The P-61C became the F-61C, hence the F-15A became the RF-61C.
The pictured aircraft was the first production aircraft, an F-15A-1-NO, s/n
45-59300, that was accepted by the USAAF in September 1946. On February 6, 1948, the aircraft was loaned to the NACA Ames Lab, Moffett Field, Sunnyvale, California, and coded NACA 111, it was used to release recoverable aerodynamic test bodies from high altitude over Edwards AFB. It was returned to the USAF in October 1954 and in 1955 declared surplus, however, W.T. Larkins states:
"I am sure this is correct as far as the paper work is concerned but I don't think the plane ever left Sunnyvale, as I have a note that it was bought surplus from the NACA Ames Lab as it was being junked. I first noted it in September 1955 at San Jose airport, a few miles down the road from Moffett Field and I am sure it was either towed down there or trucked. By November 25, 1955 it had no engines and no canopy, It was rebuilt at San Jose and it had a T-33 canopy installed."
It was sold to Steward-Davis of Gardenia, registered as N5093V. Later it was acquired by Compañía Mexicana Aerofoto, Sociedad Anónima of Mexico, and registered XB-FUJ it was used for aerial photography. Aero Enterprises, Inc, Fresno, California bought the aircraft in 1964 and converted it into a flying tanker by fitting a 1,600 gal (6,057 l) chemical tank to the belly. It was registered N9768Z and listed as aerial tanker number E-35.
The aircraft was sold to Cal-Nat Airways of Grass Valley, operating it as a forest-fire fighter till it was sold to TBM, Inc. of Tulare, another aerial firefighting, in March 1968. The only flying civilian Northrop F-15A/RF-61C was lost at Hollister on September 6, 1968, when an aborted takeoff ended with a runway overrun. After several hundred feet the aircraft impacted a hill slope, broke up and was partly consumed by the post-impact fire.