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F-15EX: Why the Air Force’s Newest Fighter Jet Is a ‘Missile Truck’

F-15EX. Image Credit: Boeing.
F-15EX. Image Credit: Boeing.

The F-15EX, the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, achieved another milestone by firing its first live missile.

During a flight over the Gulf of Mexico, the F-15EX Eagle II successfully fired an AIM-120D AMRAAM and pushed the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft closer to the finish line.

F-15EX: Missile Away

To simulate an active air target, the 40th Flight Test Squadron, which performed the live-firing drill, flew a BQM-167 aerial target drone that the F-15EX chased and shot down. The fighter jet detected and targeted the aerial target drone by using its onboard sensors.

Thus far, the F-15EX has been going through testing and evaluations for over six months. This was the first time it released live weapons.

The test provided the Air Force the opportunity to verify the aircraft “end-to-end” and has now opened the way for additional and more complex live-fire tests.

“The fact that both aircraft were able to turn around from a streamlined acceptance period and immediately deploy to a major exercise is a testament to the maturity of this platform, as well as the expertise of the combined test team as a whole. For a new platform, we’ve made an incredible amount of progress in a short period of time. I don’t know of any other platform that has undergone such a rapid test program and it’s been incredible to be a part of the team that’s bringing this to reality,” Colton Myers, the F-15EX test project manager with the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force, said in a press release.

The AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is an all-weather munition that can hit targets beyond visual range, making it a great option for air superiority missions.

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to fire the first weapon, but the bigger success is the verification of the F-15EX capability to live-fire a missile. This shot is another important step towards fielding the aircraft to combat units. Ultimately we’re a part of an iterative development process, validating expected results and providing feedback to the team on successes or things to improve. We act as the liaison to bring combat capabilities to the warfighter,” Major Benjamin Naumann, the F-15EXexperimental test pilot, stated about the live-firing test.

What makes the F-15EX so appealing to the Air Force is the extremely short time it will take to incorporate the aircraft into the operational fleet. The aircraft is an updated version of the F-15, which has been in service with the Air Force for more than 40 years.

The F-15EX: What Makes It Special? The Missile Truck Concept 

What differentiates the F-15EX Eagle II from the older variants of the F-15 is its updated engines, new cockpit system, improved electronic warfare capabilities, and data fusion capabilities.

Although a 4.5 generation aircraft, the F-15EX has enough technology on it to make it survivable in a 5th generation battlespace that will be dominated by stealth aircraft and powerful anti-aircraft capabilities.

Boeing F-15EX

F-15 X (Image: Boeing)

F-15EX Screenshot from Boeing Video

F-15EX Screenshot from Boeing Video

At the cost of about $90 million per aircraft, the F-15EX can carry almost 30,000 pounds of munitions–aka the missile truck reference. The fighter can operate at 70,0000 feet, reach speeds of 2.5 Mach, and fly more than 1,260 miles.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.