This is the F-15EX Eagle II, the most armed and lethal fighter that the United States Air Force continues to add to its fleet

This week, the United States Air Force (USAF) received two new F-15EX Eagle II fighter-bombers from Boeing, one of the most lethal fighters in the world, barely surpassed by the F-22 or the fifth-generation F-35. These aircraft, known as EX7 and EX8, will join the 142nd Airlift Wing, home of the Oregon Air National Guard Redhawks.

With these new additions, the US Air Force now has six F-15EX aircraft. There are plans to acquire a total of 104 of these fighters. Originally the target was 80 aircraft, but there were orders for 144 to completely replace the aging F-15C/D Eagle fleet. This measure will support the existing fleets of F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft.

The modernization of the F-15EX has suffered serious delays. Since June 2023, significant manufacturing and quality problems have been found, especially in the assembly of the fuselage and cockpit. According to the Government Accountability Office, which reports to the United States Congress, These issues could delay the F-15EX program by up to six months.

These delays are important, as they have affected the United States' ability to deploy its air power beyond its borders. For example, the retirement of the F-15C/D Eagle aircraft left 48 vacancies at the US air base in Okinawa. In response, the Air Force has moved part of its fleet of F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and is using F-16s. Two National Guard squadrons in Japan, the 114th Fighter Wing and the 148th Fighter Wing, have also increased their presence in the region.

Concerns now revolve around planned deliveries to foreign customers, particularly Israel, which has requested expedited delivery in light of its ongoing conflict with the Hamas terrorist group. It was at the beginning of the year, and it requested for a new squadron 25 F-15EX fighters, another squadron of F-35I fighters and a squadron of AH-64E Apache helicopters to improve its military capabilities.

It was last October when Boeing carried out the inaugural flight of its third F-15EX Eagle II, the first built in its final operational form, after recently concluding the first phase of Integrated Test and Evaluation (IT&E). Throughout this phase, according to the aviation website “The Aviatonist”, the F-15EX participated in 19 actions and interacted with fifth generation aircraft, marking the longest use of air-to-air missiles and confirmed the first use of F-15EX with the longest non-nuclear air-to-ground munition launch in the inventory.

The plane flew with only its base paint and a small serial number (20-0003) on its twin tails.and will receive its final colors and insignia prior to delivery to the US Air Force.

The unit cost per plane is 93.95 million dollarswhich is a 5.24% reduction from the 2020 Baseline Program, as documented in Air Force acquisition reports.

The AN/ALQ-250 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survival System (EPAWSS), an electronic warfare and surveillance system that comes standard on the F-15EX, is being retrofitted to several F-15Es. But with the decreasing number of aircraft being modernized, the unit cost of the system has increased.

About the F-15EX Eagle II

The F-15EX Eagle II is an advanced variant of the United States Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagle fighter aircraft, which has served faithfully since the end of the 20th century. Scheduled to replace aging F-15C/D models that have flown for four decades, The F-15EX was received into the USAF fleet in March 2021.

Image of an F-15EXBoeing

The F-15EX Eagle II It is equipped with a large amount of weaponry, from air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles to various bombs. With capacity for up to 22 air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-9X Sidewinder and a payload limit of 28,000 pounds air-to-ground ammunition such as JDAM or Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), The F-15EX is remarkably armed. A 20mm cannon also offers close combat capabilities.

All of this makes it by far the most equipped air superiority fighter. For comparison, earlier versions of the F-15, as well as the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, can carry up to eight air-to-air munitions; the F-16 Fighting Falcon, six air-to-air munitions; and the F-35 Lighting II carries up to six, four in its internal weapons bays and two on external hardpoints.

Several technological improvements distinguish the F-15EX Eagle II from its predecessors. By owning a innovative digital booth Equipped with large displays and modern avionics, pilots gain greater situational awareness and operational efficiency. A modern fly-by-wire control system increases maneuverability and lightens the pilot's workload. Additionally, an updated electronic warfare suite bolsters its capabilities to discern and counter enemy threats.

Two F-15EX fighters
Two F-15EX fighters Boeing

The F-15EX Eagle II It also offers several strategic merits over older F-15 models. Its long service life and lower operating expenses enhance its fiscal attractiveness to the USAF.

Demonstrating a progressive mission system, the F-15EX Eagle II can execute an expanded scope of operational tasks. Its increased weapons capacity and varied weapon compatibility make it a very versatile fighter aircraft.

Besides, A key feature of the F-15EX platform is its ability to rapidly incorporate future technologies. Its open architecture will change the way the Air Force inserts future applications and capabilities and will protect warfighters by keeping them ahead of threats.

F-15 Mission Systems software developers have created an autonomous test environment and are laying the foundation for the Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture, which can host containers and DevSecOps orchestration, all in preparation for the future of cloud-based development. Cloud. These tools also support the integration of third-party applications, which is essential for the modern defense mission.

An F-15EX in flight
An F-15EX in flightBoeing

The history of the F-15

It was July 27, 1972 when the McDonell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle, under the control of its chief test pilot, Irving L. Burrows, made its first test flight over the skies of California (United States). at Edwards Air Force Base. An uneventful flight of 50 minutes and more than 3,500 meters, which only had a small problem with the landing gear door.

“This plane performed well from the first minute, we knew we had a winner from the start,” Burrows said after the flight. What he didn't know is that his flight was predicting what the future of the fighter jet would be like. Fifty years later, he remains undefeated and holds the unmatched record of 104 kills.

His story began a few years ago. On December 23, 1969, after more than two years of intensive testing and evaluation, the Air Force awarded McDonnell Douglas the F-15 advanced tactical fighter contract. Among the three competing in all phases, the team managed to obtain first place, having the lowest contract price.

Its high power, light weight and large wing area combined to make the Eagle more agile, as well as great acceleration and maneuverability made it the first American fighter with an engine thrust greater than the base weight, which allowed it accelerate during a vertical climb. A revolutionary leap that led him to achieve great relevance.

The first YF-15A prototype, with a painted USAF “Air Superiority Blu” and orange flight test markings, still had square wingtips and an unnotched stabilizer. The Air Force was completely satisfied with the shaking characteristics, and several more flights occurred in the following week.

Among its first milestones was achieving a speed of Mach 1.5 and exceeding 13,500 meters of altitude. Known as the “Streak Eagle,” he was used to break multiple records, including eight climb time records held by the Soviet MiG-25. He was able to reach 30,000 meters in just three minutes.

A total of twelve pre-production units were built, including two two-seat aircraft initially designated the TF-15 and later the F-15B. The new twin-engine fighter jet was approved by the USAF for full production just six months after its first flight test.

The first flight of the F-15B two-seat trainer (previously TF-15A) was made in July 1973. The first Eagle (F-15B) was delivered in November 1974. In January 1976, the first Eagle destined for a squadron was delivered of combat. And starting in 1979, the single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory. In 1986, a new variant, the F-15E Strike Eagle, flew for the first time, which became the basis for developing new variants.

On June 27, 1979, The Israeli F-15s would become the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft, starting the unmatched record of 104 kills and zero losses against enemy aircraft. A powerful, capable aircraft with a great survival instinct. A clear example, on May 1, 1983, when the F-15D suffered a catastrophic mid-air collision with an A-4 Skyhawk, which caused the Eagle's right wing to be severed 60 cm from the root. The plane landed at twice its usual speed to compensate for the lack of lift after losing the wing.

In 2019, it was decided to allocate funding for the first eight of at least 144 (those initially planned) F-15EX, as it would be a more practical solution than waiting for enough F-35s to be available to also replace the F-15Cs. On March 11, 2021, the most advanced version of the F-15 to date, the F-15EX Eagle II, was delivered to the USAF.