The US Air Force (USAF) has officially accepted the first F-15EX fighter jet at Boeing’s St Louis facility in Missouri, US.

The two-seat fighter jet departed the facility and headed to Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida for testing.

The aircraft has the capability to launch hypersonic weapons up to 22ft-long and weighs up to 7,000lb.

It features a new electronic warfare (EW) system, advanced cockpit systems, and the latest mission systems and software capabilities.

F-15EX programme manager colonel Sean Dorey said: “This is a big moment for the airforce. With its large weapons capacity, digital backbone, and open architecture, the F-15EX will be a key element of our tactical fighter fleet and complement fifth-generation assets.

“In addition, it’s capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts.”

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By GlobalData

The USAF has plans to procure 144 F-15EXs from Boeing to replace all F-15C/D.

Last July, the USAF awarded Boeing a $1.2bn contract for the production of the first lot of eight F-15EX advanced fighter aircraft.

A second F-15EX will be delivered to Eglin AFB by the end of next month while the other six under Lot 1 aircraft will be delivered to Eglin AFB in FY2023.

US Air Force Materiel Command junior commander-general Arnold Bunch said: “I commend the dedicated efforts of the entire team for bringing this platform online in record time and in the middle of a global pandemic.

“With its open mission systems architecture and weapons capacity, the F-15EX will provide an outstanding capability for our nation for years to come.”

In January, Boeing secured a licence from the US Government to provide F-15EX fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force.