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F-15EX: The Air Force’s New ‘Killer Bomb Truck’

F-15EX image provided by Boeing.
F-15EX image provided by Boeing.

The latest iteration of the American-made F-15 Eagle fighter  – the mighty F-15EX or also known as the F-15EX Eagle II –  jet broke key records in terms of quantity and tonnage of weapons carried, test flights revealed earlier this year.

Fox News first reported months back that the advanced platform was able to carry and launch up to 12 air-to-air missiles, double the typical number of its predecessor.

Additionally, the F-15EX can hold more than 13.5 tons of weapons, a number also much higher than its past variants. That makes it what some defense experts call a ‘bomb truck’.

These numbers would make the new F-15 airframe by far the heaviest equipped air superiority fighter across the globe.

Sporting next-generation technologies, the F-15EX will undoubtedly serve the needs of the U.S. Air Force for years to come.

An overview of the F-15EX’s roots

In the late 1980’s, the McDonnell Douglas (presently Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle entered service with the U.S. Air Force.

Derived from the F-15 Eagle, the new platform was constructed to carry out long-range, high-speed flights without needing to rely on accompanying or electronic-warfare aircraft.

Unlike other Eagle family variants, the F-15E features conformal fuel tanks positioned along the airframe’s intake ramps and a tandem-seat cockpit. While the F-15E has undergone some major upgrades since its introduction to service, the latest iteration will receive quite the facelift.

Meant to replace the Air Force’s rapidly aging fleet of F-15C Eagle fighters, the new F-15EX models will enhance the current F-15 mission.

The fourth-generation fighter can pack a punch

Although the F-15EX is still technically a fourth-generation fighter jet, the advanced airframe is stocked with improvements that will make the platform even more lethal and capable in the battlespace.

In addition to fly-by-wire flight controls and new weapons systems, the Eagle II will possess a brand-new electronic warfare suite, advanced radar and conformal fuel tanks. In fact, a Congressional Research Service report noted that around 30% of the new Eagle variant would be unique to the U.S. military.

According to Eurasian Times, “The Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture, which enables quick integration of the newest features and systems, is the foundation upon which the F-15EX is built.” The fourth-generation platform is also expected to work alongside fifth-generation fighters like the F-35  and F-22 Raptor on some tasks. Additionally, the Eagle II will be the first fighter in the U.S. Air Force to feature the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile—an asset not even the F-35 Lightning II currently enjoys.

What are the cons surrounding the new Eagle II?

Costing roughly $90 million per airframe, the F-15EX Eagle is more expensive than the $80 million/per jet F-35 Lightning II fighter – although depending on how you do the math many experts would argue the opposite. However, the cost is justified by the Eagle II’s longer life frame.

The new jet is expected to last more than three times as long as its fifth-generation counterpart. Over the summer, the Air Force reduced its expected overall purchase of Eagle II fighters from 144 to 80 airframes.

The Drive explained that this reduction could be influenced by the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance Program, which also comes with a hefty price tag: “Scaling back F-15EX numbers to concentrate on the F-35A as the backbone of the tactical fleet, after which the NGAD would hopefully come online, seems to be the gamble the Air Force is trying to take.”

Author Expertise and Experience

Maya Carlin is a Senior Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

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Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.