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 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.
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.