USAF F-15 fleet to receive ACES 5 ejection seats

Collins Aerospace announced on October 29 that it has been awarded a US$700m contract to qualify, produce and field the ACES 5 next-generation ejection seat for various US Air Force (USAF) aircraft.

Work under the firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract will be performed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is scheduled to be completed on October 22, 2030. The first phase of this delivery order will focus on retrofitting the USAF’s fleet of Boeing F-15 Eagle multi-role fighters with the ACES 5 ejection seat. The system was also recently selected for use aboard the air force’s future Boeing eT-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer fleet.

F-15E [USAF/TSgt Matthew Plew] #1
A trio of Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles from the 494th Fighter Squadron 'Panthers' fly in formation during a training sortie over the North Sea on April 29, 2019. USAF/Tech Sgt Matthew Plew

Heather Robertson, vice president and general manager of Collins Aerospace, said: “[The company] continues to leverage innovative technologies to keep aircrew safe, reduce maintenance costs, and improve operational performance.

“Our goal is to provide the best-performing ejection seat exceeding the most stringent safety requirements in the world today. The ACES 5 is in a class of its own and we couldn’t be more excited to begin fielding it while continuing the proud legacy of the ACES family of systems,” she added.

Collins Aerospace’s ACES 5 next-generation ejection seat features enhanced head, neck, arm and leg flail prevention, along with a load-compensating catapult that is informed by the occupant’s weight. The firm added that “ACES 5 reduces overall ejection-related major injuries to less than 5% and ejection-related spinal injuries to less than 1%.

“Collins [Aerospace’s] ACES 5 seat provides MIL-HDBK-516C safety while meeting government requirements to include a qualification schedule planned within air force programme objectives and equal or lower life cycle costs,” it added. The US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) MIL-HDBK-516 safety document establishes the airworthiness certification criteria and is used to determine the airworthiness of all fixed-wing aircraft in US military service.

ACES 5 [Collins Aerospace]
The ACES 5 next-generation ejection seat. At present, the USAF plans to fit this system to its Boeing F-15 multi-role fighter fleets, along with its future Boeing eT-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft. Collins Aerospace

The USAF currently operates three variants of the F-15 family: the single-seat F-15C, along with the two-seat F-15D and F-15E Strike Eagle fleets. AirForces Intelligence data states that, as of November 2, 2020, the air arm employs a total of 451 examples of the multi-role fighter, comprising 210 F-15Cs, 23 F-15Ds and 218 F-15Es. The F-15C Eagle is scheduled to be retired in this decade and the USAF is due to begin fielding its replacement, the F-15EX, in the coming years.   

On top of this, the air arm also has 351 examples of the eT-7a Red Hawk on order to replace its ageing Northrop T-38C Talon advanced jet trainer fleet. The first aircraft and simulators are expected to be delivered to the USAF at Joint Base San Antonio (Randolph Air Force Base), Texas, in 2023.