The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be fielded at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to support testing efforts.
The contract, awarded to Boeing, provides for the design, development, integration, manufacturing, test, verification, certification, delivery, sustainment and modification of F-15EX aircraft, including spares, support equipment, training materials, technical data and technical support.
The F-15EX will replace the oldest F-15C/Ds in the service’s inventory. Eight F-15EX aircraft were approved in the fiscal year 2020 budget and 12 were requested in the FY21 budget. The Air Force plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program, but according to Boeing Future plans call for as many as 144 aircraft.
“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” said Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, in U.S. Air Force news release. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”
The F-15EX is a two-seat fighter with U.S.-only capabilities. It features a deep magazine that can carry a load of advanced weapons. The platform also requires minimal transitional training or additional manpower and little to no infrastructure changes, ensuring the continuation of the mission.
Pilots and mechanics currently operating the F-15 anticipate transitioning to the F-15EX in a matter of days as opposed to years, as Holmes himself explains: “When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years.”
The most significant difference between the F-15EX and legacy F-15s lies in its Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture. The OMS architecture will enable the rapid insertion of the latest aircraft technologies. The F-15EX will also have fly-by-wire flight controls, a new electronic warfare system, advanced cockpit systems, and the latest mission systems and software capabilities available for legacy F-15s.
“The F-15EX’s digital backbone, open mission systems, and generous payload capacity fit well with our vision for future net-enabled warfare,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Continually upgrading systems, and how they share data across the Joint Force, is critical for defeating advanced threats. F-15EX is designed to evolve from day one.”
“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing F-15EX program manager, in the company news release. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”
The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be fielded at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to support testing efforts. The delivery of the first two aircraft is scheduled for the second quarter of FY21. The remaining six aircraft are scheduled to deliver in FY23. The Air Force is using the Strategic Basing Process to determine the fielding locations for subsequent aircraft lots.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force