The United States Air Force received its first F-15EX fighter jet from Boeing at the company’s St. Louis facility on March 10, 2021. It will now undergo operational testing at Eglin Air Force Base, South Florida, where it was ferried by both test squadron commanders.
A second aircraft should be delivered by the end of April 2021, and six more by the end of 2023. The eight pre-production aircraft were ordered in July 2020, to allow the military and the manufacturer to test and fully define their applications.
Farewell to the first #F15EX for the @USAirForce! This fighter is ready for its new home with @TeamEglin. pic.twitter.com/cqOLt02hJX— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) March 11, 2021
The USAF hopes to eventually acquire 144 F-15EX fighters to replace older F-15C/D models and refresh the F-15 fleet. “The F‑15EX provides a cost-effective and expedient solution to refresh the F‑15C/D fleet and augment the F-15E fleet to meet National Defense Strategy capability and capacity requirements well into the 2040s,” it said in a statement.
The latest iteration of the F-15 Eagle air superiority aircraft, the F-15EX features an increased payload capacity, fly-by-wire controls, a digital cockpit, modernized sensors, radars, and electronic warfare capabilities. While the aging airframe is not up to par with the 5th generation fighters, it should eventually provide the USAF with a cheaper alternative to carry out missions of airspace and base defense.
“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 5th-generation assets,” commented Colonel Sean Dorey, F-15EX program manager at the USAF. “In addition, it’s capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts.”
On January 28, 2021, Boeing was cleared by the United States authorities to offer the F-15EX to India in the MRCA (multi-role combat aircraft) competition that the country is holding to pick a new backbone aircraft for the air force fighter fleet. The contract covers the acquisition of up to 114 fighter aircraft.