The F-15EX – the Eagle II is a next-generation fighter aircraft being developed by Boeing for the US Air Force (USAF). It is the latest iteration of the F-15 Eagle Mission Design Series and an upgraded version of the F-15 fourth-generation fighter jet.
The new fighter is the most advanced variant of the multi-role, all-weather, and day and night versions of the F-15 aircraft family, featuring affordability, speed, range, heavy-weapon payload capacity, digital backbone, and open architecture. The F-15EX will provide the capability to carry a large number of missiles in support of the F-35 aircraft and provide firepower to destroy threats detected by the F-35 during combat operations.
The USAF intends to acquire 144 F-15EXs from Boeing. The 142ndWing at Portland will become the first operational unit to fly the aircraft while the 173rd Fighter Wing is expected to serve as the F-15EX formal training unit in 2024.
F-15EX development and delivery details
The process for acquiring the F-15EX aircraft began in February 2019. The F-15EX programme was approved under the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2020 fiscal year, which was signed in December 2019. The programme of record includes the purchase of eight F-15EX aircraft in the first lot with plans to purchase at least 144 units to replace the Oregon Air National Guard’s ageing F-15C/D fleet and refresh the existing F-15 fleet in the future.
Boeing secured a $1.2bn contract to produce the first batch of eight F-15EX advanced fighter aircraft in July 2020. The company is responsible to provide design, development, integration, manufacturing, testing, verification, certification, delivery, sustainment and modification services for the aircraft. The aircraft is being manufactured at the Boeing F-15 production facility in St Louis, Missouri, US.
The first F110-GE-129 engine for the aircraft was delivered to the USAF in September 2020. The maiden flight of the fighter jet was performed in February 2021 while the USAF officially accepted the first F-15EX, the Eagle II from Boeing in March 2021.
The aircraft left Boeing’s facility in St Louis and arrived at the Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida to undergo combined developmental and operational tests. The integrated testing will focus on meeting the test objectives and identifying any system issues for rectification prior to the production ramp-up and delivery.
Boeing received a licence from the US Government to provide F-15EX aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in January 2021.
The USAF issued a request for proposals for the procurement of up to 461 engines and related components covering lots two to nine for the F-15EX in February 2021. The US State Department approved a $13.9bn deal to sell 36 F-15EX to Indonesia in February 2022.
The aircraft underwent acoustic testing in November 2022. The tests included ground testing at idle conditions, with the engines running and during the flight. The data from the tests will be used to update noise level predictions and models in areas where the aircraft will be stationed and operated.
In January 2023, two F-15EX demonstrated an expanded missile carriage capacity of 12 air-to-air missiles compared to the eight air-to-air missiles capacity of the F-15 aircraft. The two aircraft successfully launched missiles from missile stations named Station 1 and Station 9 in a test conducted to validate whether the missiles can be launched safely from the stations.
Design and features of the F-15EX fighter jet
The advanced two-seater fighter jet has a length of 19.45m, a width of 13.05m and a height of 5.64m. It has an empty weight of 14,500kg while the maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is 37,000kg.
It can launch hypersonic weapons up to 22ft long, providing an advantage in future near-peer conflicts. The aircraft can be operated by a single pilot and has an increased payload capacity.
The jet is installed with new electronic warfare (EW) system, advanced cockpit systems, modern sensors and radars, and the latest mission systems and software capabilities. It features an open mission systems (OMS) architecture with advanced battle management systems (ABMS), allowing rapid integration of the latest aircraft technologies and retaining the relevance of the platform for many decades.
The OMS will also provide the capability to operate independently when in isolation and reconnect to the global cloud network when conditions are feasible.
The aircraft will be installed with fly-by-wire flight controls and the APG-82(V)1 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which will offer extended range and improved multi-target track and precision engagement capabilities.
The radar will provide the ability to detect, identify and track multiple air and surface targets at longer stand-off ranges, supporting informed and faster decision-making during conflicts.
Engine and performance of the F-15EX
The F-15EX fighter jet is powered by two F110-GE-129 engines, with each generating a thrust of 29,000lb.
The aircraft can fly at a speed of Mach 2.5, which makes it the world’s fastest fighter jet. It has a range of 1,200nm allowing it to strike deep targets.
GE Aviation received a lot one contract from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCM) to develop 19 F110-GE-129 engines for the F-15EX aircraft in June 2020. The contract also includes the installation and supply of spare components and advanced engine monitoring system computers.
Boeing selected Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S) to supply the APG-82(V)1 AESA radar for the F-15EX fighter aircraft in October 2020. RI&S will provide eight radar systems by 2022, under the contract.