The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) newest multi-role fighter and latest incarnation of the Boeing F-15 Eagle family, the F-15EX, will be officially known as the ‘Eagle II’ in operational service.
The platform’s name and official role were revealed by the USAF during an unveiling ceremony, held at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida on April 7. The event celebrated the historic delivery of the first F-15EX – serial 20-0001 – to the air force, which arrived at the Florida base on March 10, 2021, marking the first new F-15 to be handed over to the service in 17 years.
During the ceremony, the USAF also announced that the Eagle II’s official role will be “to meet capacity requirements while bringing diverse technology ensuring the platform’s relevance for decades to come.”
Lt Gen Duke Richardson, the military deputy of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, announced the F-15EX’s official designation and role during the April 7 ceremony.
“Undefeated in aerial combat, the F-15 Eagle epitomised air superiority in the minds of our enemies, allies, and the American people for over 45 years, but it was not meant to fly forever. We heard the demand signal from our warfighters. I’m pleased to say we’ve responded boldly and decisively, with a proven platform that’s modernised and optimised to maintain air superiority now and into the future,” he said.
The 96th Test Wing (TW) and the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB are preparing to start the test and evaluation process with the F-15EX in the near future. During which, the 96th TW’s 40th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) – a component of the 53rd Wing – will work together closely during this effort.
In total, the USAF intends to acquire 144 examples of the Eagle II from Boeing. These aircraft will be used to replace the air force’s ageing Boeing F-15C/D Eagle fighter fleet, which boasts an average age of more than 37 years. According to the service, these two matured variants of the Eagle family are rapidly approaching the end of their useful service lives, adding that these aircraft are already operating on the margins of structural integrity.
The Oregon Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) 173rd Fighter Wing (FW) at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base (ANGB) in Klamath Falls, Oregon, will become the first unit to operate the F-15EX Eagle II in 2024. The 173rd FW is responsible for training F-15C/D pilots and will continue to serve as the formal training unit for F-15EX aircrews.
The 142nd FW ‘Redhawks’ – also a part of the Oregon ANG – will serve as the first operational unit for the Eagle II. When equipped with the new fighter, the wing will be responsible for conducting critical homeland defence alert missions from Portland ANGB.
Described by Boeing as being the most advanced version of the F-15 family to date, the F-15EX features an all-new digital cockpit, a fly-by-wire flight control system and Honeywell’s ADCP-II mission computer. It will also be equipped with Raytheon Technologies’ AN/APG-82 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, as well as BAE Systems’ Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) for both offensive and defensive electronic warfare operations.
The first six Eagle IIs will be powered by a pair of GE Aviation F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engines. However, the USAF will decide whether to retain this powerplant or opt for Pratt & Whitney’s F100-PW-229 engine for subsequent examples of the Eagle II through a competitive process.
In July 2020, the USAF awarded Boeing a US$1.2bn contract to produce and deliver the first eight F-15EXs to the service. This batch of aircraft will be first fielded from Eglin to support the platform’s test campaign. These Eagle IIs are currently being manufactured under production Lot 1, with the first two being handed over this year, followed by the remaining six in fiscal year 2023 (FY23).
As per the air force’s current plan, it will purchase 76 examples of the F-15EX over the next five years under the Future Years Defense Program. The USAF has requested funds to order a second batch of 12 Eagle IIs as part of its FY21 budget, but a firm order for these aircraft has yet to be placed. The first F-15EXs to be operated by the Oregon ANG’s 142nd and 173rd FWs will be produced under Lots 2 and 3, with deliveries scheduled to take place in FY24 and FY25.