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The F-15EX Is A Powerhouse (But No F-35 Stealth Fighter)

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

The F-15EX is a Capable Warbird – But it is No F-35: Last November, a pair of Boeing F-15EX Eagle II aircraft successfully launched missiles from their weapon stations, known as Stations 1 and 9.

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The tests, conducted by the pilots from the United States Air Force’s 96th Test Wing, saw the deployment of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile from Station 1 and an AIM-9X from Station 9 over the Eglin Test and Training Complex’s water range.

The Air Force said the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force mission was the first test flight to validate that the weapons could be fired effectively and safely from those stations.  The successful employment was a major step in demonstrating the Eagle II aircraft’s missile capacity of 12 air-to-air missiles. The Air Force confirmed the success of the November tests earlier this month.

“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.

F-15EX: Upgraded F-15

The F-15EX Eagle II’s ability to carry a full dozen missiles is noteworthy, as previous models of the Cold War-era combat aircraft could only carry eight air-to-air missiles.

The F-15EX is able to increase its weapons load with the addition of four missile stations located toward the wing tips.

The recent mission provided the first test points for validating the expanded carriage, as well as the employment capabilities of the Eagle II. It was a significant leap forward for the Eagle II program, as the F-15EX had only fired its first missile last summer.

“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 Air Force added.

Sorry, This Is No F-35

The Air Force has already placed an order for the first eight F-15EXs as of July 2020, with the delivery of those initial Eagle IIs set for 2023.

The aircraft will be flown at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) to undergo operational testing.

Despite the capabilities of the F-15EX, it isn’t meant to serve as a replacement for the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, but rather to fill the role of the aging F-15 Eagles that are due to fly off into retirement.

The service is currently phasing out its aging F-15C/D models, as some of the aircraft are now approaching 40 years in service.

The F-15EX will enhance the current F-15 mission used in homeland defense.

Last September, Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, command of the United States Air National Guard, threw his support for the Boeing F-15EX, even as the United States Air Force had announced that it would scale back its acquisition of the aircraft from 144 to 80 jets as part of its fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget.

The F-15EX is essentially a 21st-century evolution of the proven F-15.

The twin-engine, all-weather tactical F-15 has had one of the most successful track records of modern fighters, with more than 100 victories and no losses in aerial combat.

The aircraft’s design also proved flexible enough that an improved all-weather strike derivative, the F-15E Strike Eagle, was later developed and entered service in 1989.

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Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John Zeigler

    January 22, 2023 at 11:06 am

    We need tanks and hardened assets in Taiwan to fend off the Chinese until the Americans, Japanese, etc. can respond. We don’t even have our own (freewill) bases in Japan anymore. What good will advanced aircraft be if they have no place to land? Even the Taiwanese have bought sophisticated aircraft that will NOT defend the island against the advanced Chinese aircraft. (Thank you Mr.Biden for selling the secretes and opening the border to sabotage so the Chinese can cause confusion in America at will. Thousands of saboteurs have crossed the border into the USA.) The market will fall 50% immediately. Either Taiwan and the USA and all the USA allies better get it together immediately or there will be real pain if this problem explodes on the scene. Meanwhile we need to get the tanks and advanced air defense into Ukraine to end that war as soon as possible. If Ukraine can negotiate from strength Putin will fold. Time is of the essence.

  2. Mike Davis

    January 22, 2023 at 7:56 pm

    Having worked several airframes in my 33 year USAF service (F-106, F-16, F-15 A/B, F-15 C/D), I am excited about the EX. It’s about time.
    Each airframe serves it’s specific purpose, and for Homeland Defense, I would absolutely prefer the F-15EX over the F-35. The two should not be compared together because they are different missions. It’s like comparing the F-111 to the F-16. ALL of our CONUS alert facilities are manned by the various ANG units, and the ANG is the only stateside force that still employs the F-15 (with the exception of E models, which is primarily air to ground, not air to air). I wish they had bought more and kudos to Israel who just put in an order for 30-35 of the F-15EX.

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