The Boeing F-15EX Eagle II fighter has completed a key test and evaluation phase, which included the successful launch of air-to-air and air-to-ground standoff munitions, the United States Air Force announced on Wednesday. During the tests, a pair of F-15EXs launched Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Small Diameter Bombs, and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles.
The tests were conducted during the Combat Hammer exercise that concluded at the end of August and occurred at Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah.
Air Force officials said that the weapons were employed during a wide range of scenarios. This marked the completion of the F-15EX’s first phase of integrated test and evaluation efforts.
The data collected from the test will be used to determine the full-rate production for the fourth-generation fighter, Defense News reported.
The $93.5 Million F-15EX Eagle II
It was also this week that reports came out that put the final price tag on the F-15EX Eagle II at about $93.5 million per aircraft if the Air Force sticks with its current plans to acquire 104 of the fighters and lawmakers on Capitol Hill giving the green light, per the service’s annual Selected Acquisition Report.
This is the first SAR for the Eagle II program after it shifted from being a Middle-Tier Acquisition effort to a Major Defense Acquisition Program. The Acquisition Procurement Units Cost (APUC) of the aircraft has actually dropped from $114.2 million – a decline of 5.24 percent – after the Air Force announced it would reverse course on the planned cuts to the fleet, and instead increased the overall buy by 24 aircraft by the fiscal year 2025 (FY25), Air & Space Forces magazine first reported.
Is 100 Aircraft Enough?
The current question is whether the Air Force is actually looking to buy enough of the Eagle IIs. The aircraft, though lacking stealth and other capabilities of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, could still be well-suited to serve as airborne controllers for future Collaborative Combat Aircraft and other drones, as a launch platform for advanced weapons including hypersonic weapons and other large ordnance, and as a new platform for advanced electronic warfare (EW) platforms.
Given that the aircraft has been touted to be a “do-it-all” fighter, the question is whether 104 of the aircraft are even enough. Many would of course be tasked with the defense of the homeland in a time of major crisis or war.
Though the Air Force did reverse course, and realized that its plan to acquire only 80 F-15EX Eagle IIs would leave the fleet spread thin for all the jobs it was meant to fill, the service’s current goal to have 104 is lower than the originally planned fleet size of at least 144. The keywords “at least” need to be stressed.
More Than an F-15 Eagle
Critics of the program have also been quick to suggest the F-15EX is simply a new model of an old warbird. But supporters are as quick to note its current configuration includes the highly-capable AN/APG-82 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar and the powerful Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare suite, according to a report from TheDrive.
“The F-15EX … has an extremely long range and has a massive weapons carriage capability,” Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, head of Pacific Air Forces, the Air Force’s top command in that region, told TheDrive’s War Zone and other outlets at a roundtable on the sidelines of the Air & Space Forces Association conference earlier this month.
“Some of the weapons that you can’t carry internally [on] a fifth-generation aircraft, you can put on the F-15EX,” Wilsbach continued. “That sort of gives you some incredibly long-range capability. Frankly, it can almost, not quite, but it can almost fill in where you might not have as many bombers as you’d like to have. This thing can carry so much ordnance, it definitely is [sic] the capability to move ordnance around the airspace and employ that ordnance, much like you would with a bomber. So that’s going to be quite effective.”
Boeing has also touted the F-15EX’s capabilities, describing it as a 21st-century evolution of the proven F-15 Eagle. 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 Air Force isn’t the only interested customer in the F-15EX, as Israel is now preparing to send a formal request to the U.S. for 25 of the fighters, with plans to acquire as many as 50 of the aircraft.
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.
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