Earlier this week the new Boeing F-15EX fighter jet completed its first flight, paving the way for the early delivery of the first two jets to the United States Air Force later this quarter. The ninety-minute test flight was conducted from St. Louis Lambert International Airport with Boeing F-15 Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese at the controls.
During the flight Giese tested the multirole jet fighter’s avionics, advanced systems and software, whilst a Boeing test team monitored the data collected in real time to confirm that the aircraft performed as planned.
“(The) successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager, via a statement.
“Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force,” Kumar added. “Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”
The upgraded F-15EX, which is expected to have a structural life that could support the aircraft to serve through 2050, is far more than just an improved F-15. Described by the Air Force as a two-seat fighter with U.S. only capabilities, the F-15EX was developed to be a next-generation variant of the combat-tested, 1980s-era F-15 fighter. While still a fourth-generation aircraft, the F-15EX features new adapted technologies and upgradeability, which could make it a viable, lethal, high-threat environment-capable attack platform.
And a far more affordable option for the Air Force to replace its aging fleet of F-15Cs, which are now subject to speed and G-loading resections to prevent damage to their airframes, a severe capability hindrance.
The F-15EX has also been upgraded with a modern suite of flight controls, computers and defensive electronics, while it is also equipped with conformal fuel tanks and two additional weapon stations over the F-15C.
One of the biggest selling points of the F-15EX has been its ease of use, and while the Air Force already has the largest F-15 fleet in the world, it would mean an easy transition to the newer aircraft. Boeing has maintained that the F-15EX requires no logistics chains, training squadrons, infrastructure modification, program offices or even weapons integration.
Additionally, units converting to F-15EX would be able to transition within weeks or months, not years, of receiving new aircraft. These benefits, combined with the lowest cost per flight in its class, make F-15EX the total life cycle solution to meet U.S. Air Force capacity requirements, Boeing had suggested. Moreover, units in transition would include not just pilots, but mechanics and ground support personnel as well.
In July, the Air Force awarded Boeing a nearly $1.2 billion contract to build the first lot of eight F-15EX advanced fighter jets to help the service meet its capacity requirements and add capability to its fighter fleet. The award also covers support and one-time, upfront engineering costs.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.