In mid-April, the US Department of the Air Force made its selections for the next bases that will receive two of the newest fighters in its inventory, the F-35A and F-15EX, as it moves to recapitalise its combat air formations in the continental United States.

On 18 April, the US Air Force (USAF) issues a release stating that Barnes Air National Guard Base (ANGB), Massachusetts, had been selected as the preferred location to host the next F-35A Lightning II squadron and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans (NAS JRB) and Fresno Air National Guard Base (ANGB), California, will replace its F-15C/D Eagles with F-15EX Strike Eagles.

The new squadrons will consist of 18 F-35As at Barnes ANGB and 18 F-15EXs each at both Fresno ANGB and NAS JRB New Orleans.

The decision to host the next F-35As and the F-15EXs at their respective bases came after conducting site surveys at each location, assessing the location’s ability to facilitate the mission and infrastructure capacity, while accounting for community support, environmental factors and cost, the USAF stated.

In addition, it was stated that the Department of the Air Force will conduct environmental impact analyses at each base, which are expected to be completed in spring 2024 before a final decision is made.

F-15EX evolution

While the F-35 stealth fighter received significant public attention as the most proliferated fifth-generation jet in the world, the F-15EX has, metaphorically, flown under the radar and is key element to the US Air Force’s modernisation efforts.

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In January this year the type conducted firing trials with AIM-120D advanced medium-range air-to-air (AMRAAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles as part of its developmental test programme, which saw the first launch undertaken in February 2022.

The test marked a milestone in showcasing the F-15EX Eagle II aircraft’s missile capability of carrying all 12 air-to-air missiles in the USAF’s inventory.