Boeing has successfully completed the first flight of the F-15QA (Qatar Advanced) – the most advanced variant of the Eagle family to be manufactured so far.
The aircraft is being developed for use by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), with 36 examples on order as part of a US$6.2bn contract awarded to the company in 2017. Boeing is expected to begin delivering the F-15QA to Qatar in 2021.
Prior to the flight – which took place on April 14 – Boeing’s flight test team, led by chief test pilot Matt Giese, created a precise mission checklist to test the new multirole aircraft’s capabilities. The aircraft departed Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, for a 90-minute flight to demonstrate these new abilities.
During the flight, the aircraft tested its manoeuvrability, starting with what the company called a "Viking takeoff" – where the aircraft took off and subsequently flew into a vertical climb – and by pulling nine Gs when flying in its dedicated testing airspace. System checks were also made on the aircraft’s avionics and radar software, with a test team on the ground monitoring the data in real-time to confirm that the aircraft had performed as planned.
Col Ahmed Al Mansoori, commander of the QEAF’s F-15QA Wing, said: “We are very proud of this accomplishment and [are] looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this [programme]… This successful first flight is an important milestone that brings our squadrons one step closer to flying this incredible aircraft over the skies of Qatar.”
Prat Kumar, Boeing’s vice president and F-15 programme manager added: “This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload… The advanced F-15QA not only offers game-changing capabilities but is also built using advanced manufacturing processes which make the jet more efficient to manufacture. In the field, the F-15 costs half the cost per flight hour of similar fighter aircraft and delivers far more payload at far greater ranges. That’s success for the warfighter.”
According to Boeing, the F-15QA brings “next generation technologies” to its customers, including fly-by-wire controls, modernised sensor packages, electronic warfare capabilities, a digital cockpit and a new radar system, along with the “world’s fastest mission computer". It adds that the platform has increased reliability, sustainability and maintainability to enable operators to maintain affordability and remain ahead of both current and evolving threats.
As a result of Boeing’s F-15QA programme and in partnership with the US Air Force (USAF), the company is now preparing to produce a new-build variant of the advanced F-15 fighter, the F-15EX – which will be used domestically by the USAF. It has currently been contracted to produce eight jets for the air arm, but future plans call for as many as 144 aircraft.