U.S. Air Force’s New Boeing F-15EX Fighter Aircraft Conducts Maiden Flight

The new Boeing F-15EX fighter aircraft, being developed for the U.S. Air Force (USAF), has conducted its maiden flight on Feb. 2.

The aircraft took off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri at 1:53 pm local time while performing a vertical “Viking takeoff” maneuver entering a steep climb just after leaving the ground. The jet then completing a 90-minute test flight before returning to the airport.

Boeing F-15 Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese checked out the multirole jet’s avionics, advanced systems and software. A test team monitoring the data collected during the flight in real time confirmed that the aircraft performed as planned.

“Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager. “Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”

F-15EX is the most advanced variant of Boeing F-15 Eagle/F-15E Strike Eagle fighter aircraft to date and is a two-seat fighter with U.S.-only capabilities. The aircraft is a derivative of the F-15SA aircraft currently operational with the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and the F-15QA aircraft ordered by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF).

Improvements over the previous versions include the AMBER (Advanced Missile and Bomb Ejection Rack) weapons rack to carry up to 22 air-to-air missiles (AAMs), infra-red search and track (IRST), advanced avionics and electronics warfare (EW) equipment, AESA radar, and revised structure with a service life of 20,000 hours. The most significant difference between the F-15EX and legacy F-15s lies in its Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture. The OMS architecture will enable the rapid insertion of the latest aircraft technologies.

Modern variants of the F-15 also include fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls, an all-new digital cockpit, and the ADCP-II, the world’s fastest mission computer. The F-15EX, the most advanced version to date, features the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) EW system to improve mission effectiveness and survivability for operators.

The F-15EX aircraft is now being procured by the U.S. Air Force to replace the oldest F-15C/D Eagles in the service’s inventory. The Air Force plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program.

In June 2020, the U.S. Air Force awarded a nearly $1.2 billion contract for its first lot of eight Boeing F-15EX fighter aircraft. The contract provides for the design, development, integration, manufacturing, test, verification, certification, delivery, sustainment and modification of F-15EX aircraft, including spares, support equipment, training materials, technical data and technical support.

The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be fielded at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to support testing efforts. The delivery of the first two aircraft is scheduled for the second quarter of FY21. The remaining six aircraft are scheduled to deliver in FY23.

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