As told by Samuel King Jr. in the article F-15EX proves out full air-to-air capability, the 96th Test Wing’s pilots fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) from Station 1 and an AIM-9X from Station 9 over the Eglin Test and Training Complex’s water range.
This Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force mission was the first US Air Force (USAF) test flight to validate the weapons could be fired effectively and safely from those stations. The successful employment of these weapons is a major step in demonstrating the Eagle II aircraft’s missile capacity of 12 air-to-air missiles.
“I’m really proud to be a part of this milestone for the F-15EX program to deliver increased payload capacity to the combat air forces,” said Maj. Jeremy Schnurbusch, 40th FLTS-attached pilot, who fired the AIM-9X missile.
This is one of many upgrades F-15EX brings to the Air Force inventory. Prior to the F-15EX Eagle II, F-15 aircraft models could carry eight air-to-air missiles. The F-15EX Eagle II adds four additional missile stations located toward the wing tips. This mission provided the first test points for validating the expanded carriage and employment capabilities of the Eagle II.
Both aircraft successfully released the missiles on separate passes against a target drone. The releases were another milestone in the F-15EX’s developmental test program, but also incorporated many operational test objectives during the mission.
“Having been a part of the Eglin F-15EX team from day one, it’s exciting to see the progress made and new milestones achieved as we work to field the most combat-capable F-15EX,” said Maj. Brett Hughes, OFP CTF, who successfully fired the AIM-120 from Station 1.
With this success, these missile launches pushed forward the aircraft’s integrated developmental and operational testing. The F-15EX fired its first missile almost a year ago.
Moreover, as already reported, the USAF said in August that the F-15EX is able to fire an air-to-air missile farther than any other fighter in the service arsenal. Thanks to this unique capability, the Eagle II can function as a long-range, standoff weapons system.
“The integrated test strategy has been critical to our test success, allowing us to break the mold of traditional testing, ultimately resulting in a better overall product for the warfighter in a shorter timeline than a traditional approach,” said Colton Myers, OFP CTF F 15EX test project manager.
Once initial testing is complete, operational units receiving the new F-15EX will be able to carry and employ a full load-out of 12 missiles on the aircraft upon fielding.
The USAF is embracing the F-15EX as a means to shore up its fighter force, facing the hard reality that it just doesn’t have enough iron to go around.
The service received only 186 F-22s and it never got the 381 Raptors it planned for to replace its F-15C/Ds and carry the air superiority mission through 2040. The USAF had to retain more than 200 of the youngest or lowest-time F-15Cs well beyond their planned service lives to meet global force requirements. Now those F-15C/Ds are so worn down that the USAF officials say it’s no longer cost-effective to fix them. Hence the service decided to buy the F-15EX to replace the F-15C/D.
The F-15EX is anticipated to join the F-35 Lightning II, F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II along with a sixth-generation fighter program as part of the four-plus-one concept intended to streamline the fleet.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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