The Boeing F-15EX, the U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter, touched down here March 11. The aircraft will be the first Air Force aircraft to be tested and fielded from beginning to end, through combined developmental and operational tests. The aircraft bears its unit insignia. EX1 marked with “ET” from the 96th TW’s, 40th Flight Test Squadron. The EX2, arriving in April, will display the “OT” tail flash to represent the 53rd Wing’s 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron. To support the combined test effort, both test squadron commanders ferried in the EX-1 together. The aim of integrated testing is to ensure the EX is delivered to the warfighter as soon as possible, while ensuring the aircraft meets test objectives.
“It’s a special day for the base and our mission,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, 96th Test Wing commander. “We’re very proud to be part of the next evolution of this historic aircraft. I look forward to seeing this unique test collaboration prepare the F-15EX for the warfighter.”
“Combining these test capabilities on day one of flight test helps ensure F-15EX is ready to execute on air tasking order day one. We’re confident that along with our OFP CTF partners running test management, we will provide that capability faster to the warfighter than ever before,” said Lt. Col. Richard Turner, 40th FLTS commander, who flew the new EX to Eglin.
This combination of Eglin’s testers allows the teams to identify any system issues early on, so they can be addressed before the F-15EX’s increased production and delivery to the squadrons.The Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force here will manage test planning and oversee all the groundwork for the EX’s test program. While the new fighter can be operated by a single pilot, it is a two-seat aircraft with an increased payload capacity, electronic flight controls, advanced cockpit and mission systems and software capabilities. Before testing and evaluation begins, aircrews will familiarize themselves with the aircraft through local airspace flights.
In 2018, the USAF and Boeing discussed a proposed F-15X, a single-seat variant based on the F-15QA intended to replace the USAF’s F-15C/Ds. Improvements includes the AMBER weapons rack to carry up to 22 air-to-air missiles, infrared search and track, advanced avionics and electronics warfare equipment, AESA radar, and revised structure with a service life of 20,000 hours. In July 2020, the U.S. Defense Department ordered eight fighters over three years for $1.2 billion. In August 2020, the Air Force announced plans to replace the Air National Guard’s aging F-15Cs in Florida and Oregon with F-15EXs. The F-15EX took its maiden flight on 2 February 2021.