F-15EX 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. The fighter jet will provide the capability to carry a large number of missiles in support of the F-35 aircraft, follow behind the F-35 to offer 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 fiscal year 2020, which was signed in December 2019. The programme of record includes the purchase of eight F-15EX aircraft in the first lot with future 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.
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 facility in 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 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.
The second aircraft is expected to be delivered in April 2021 while the remaining six aircraft under production lot one are scheduled for delivery in 2023.
Boeing received a licence from the US Government to provide F-15EX fighter 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 lot two to lot nine for the F-15EX in February 2021.
Design and features of F-15EX fighter jet
The advanced two-seater fighter jet has a length of 19.45m, a width of 13.05m and height of 18.54m. 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 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 ensuring the platform to remain relevant 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
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) for the production of 19 F110-GE-129 engines for the F-15EX aircraft in June 2020. The contract also includes the installation and supply of spares 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 terms of the contract.