USAF orders first F-15EX batch in $1.2bn deal

Boeing has been contracted by the US Air Force (USAF) for its first lot of eight F-15EX multi-role fighters, in a deal worth roughly US$1.2bn.

The contract – which was announced on July 13 – covers the design, development, integration, manufacturing, test, verification, certification, delivery, sustainment and modification of the F-15EX. It also includes support equipment, aircraft spares and training, along with technical data and support.

As per the current plan, the USAF seeks to procure 76 F-15EXs over the next five years under its Future Years Defense Program. The budget for the inaugural batch of eight aircraft was approved in the US fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget and a further 12 examples have been requested in the FY2021 budget.

According to the USAF, the transition to the F-15EX will require minimal training and manpower, along with little to no infrastructure changes. USAF

This latest deal is part of a larger indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract – worth approximately US$22.9bn – which will cover the acquisition of up to 144 aircraft.

The air arm is acquiring the platform to replace its oldest legacy F-15C/D Eagle multi-role fighters, some of which have been in operational service since 1979. The F-15EX will also be used to complement the USAF’s fifth-generation fighters, comprising the F-22A Raptor and F-35A Lightning II.

Gen Mike Holmes, commander of the USAF’s Air Combat Command, said: “The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our [ageing] F-15C/D fleets… The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”

“When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years,” Holmes added.

F-15EX [Boeing]
The F-15EX will be the most advanced member of the F-15 family to enter service with the USAF. Boeing

Boeing’s two-seat F-15EX features open mission systems architecture, which allows for the rapid integration of new technologies and munitions. The aircraft will also feature new fly-by-wire flight controls, advanced cockpit systems, improved software capabilities, new mission software and an electronic warfare suite. It can be equipped with more munitions than its predecessors and will have the ability to launch hypersonic weapons.

“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone… Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the US Air Force,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing’s F-15EX programme manager.

The company is currently producing the first two aircraft at its facility in St Louis, Missouri. Delivery of the first two examples is expected to take place in the first half of 2021, with the remaining six of this batch scheduled to follow in 2023. The first eight aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to support USAF testing efforts.