The F-15EX Eagle II has completed the first phase of its hybrid developmental/initial operational test and evaluation (D/IOT&E) programme, otherwise known as F-15EX Integrated Test and Evaluation (IT&E) Phase I), with the milestone being announced shortly after the fighter concluded its participation in the USAF’s Exercise Combat Hammer.
This test phase saw the Eagle II participate in 19 large force exercise events, integrating with fifth-generation aircraft and firing the longest-range air-to-air and non-nuclear air-to-ground munitions in the USAF’s inventory.
In July 2022, the F-15EX conducted AIM-120D/C-3 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) live-fire test firings, validating the fighter’s long-range firing capability and the effectiveness of its AN/ALQ-250 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS). Subsequently, in November 2022, the Eagle II demonstrated that it could carry up to 12 AMRAAMs.
More recently, the F-15EX launched Small Diameter Bombs during Exercise Combat Hammer at Hill AFB, Utah, between August 14-25. The aircraft also launched an AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) during the same exercise. The test aircraft carried three JASSMs, but only one was actually fired, marking the conclusion of F-15EX IT&E Phase I.
The F-15EX is the first USAF aircraft to undergo an IT&E programme, which combines the usual DOT&E and IOT&E campaigns into a single effort. This was possible because existing test data from the legacy F-15C/D and F-15E could be compared with data from the new Eagle II, with special focus on the F-15EX’s advanced processor, fly-by-wire control system and its other new unique features.
The idea behind concurrent DOT&E and IOT&E is to save time and to deliver a fielding recommendation to Air Combat Command for the F-15EX as quickly as possible. This same approach is planned for the B-21 Raider programme. The next major milestone for the F-15EX will be the delivery of the first Lot 1B aircraft to Eglin AFB, Florida, in the coming weeks. A full-rate production decision is expected to be made this fall.