Just weeks after delivery to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the Boeing F-15EX â€“ both 001 and 002 â€“ have taken to the Alaska skies for Northern Edge 21, May 3-14, 2021. The purpose of the F-15EX’s participation in Northern Edge is to allow for immediate deep-end testing in a complex jamming environment to gather essential test data for what works and what needs improvement. This is critical to expose the F-15EX to this environment now to make changes early on and allow for an aggressive test and fielding timeline.
“At Northern Edge we’re assessing how the F-15EX can perform in a jamming environment, to include GPS, radar and Link 16 jamming,” said Maj. Aaron Eshkenazi, F-15EX pilot, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron. “The other main goal is assessing the EX’s interoperability with fourth and fifth generation assets. With more than 60 aircraft airborne during every vul (vulnerability period â€“ the period of time when an aircraft is vulnerable to harm) at Northern Edge, we’re putting the jet in the role it will perform in once it’s fielded, and seeing how it does. So far, it’s been performing really well.”
While at Northern Edge, F-15EX pilots, test engineers and others from both the 85th TES, 53rd Wing and 40th Flight Test Squadron, 96th Test Wing, are gathering test data points and accomplishing test objectives, to include:
-Performance of technological advancements and subsystems, such as the advanced cockpit system, large area displays, and the new helmet, the digital Helmet Mounted Cueing System for the F-15EX,
-Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System performance defending both the F-15EX itself and other joint fourth- and fifth- generation platforms,
-Overall radar performance, and
-Interoperability with other platforms.
The F-15EX is able to come to an exercise like Northern Edge and safely participate in an operationally complex and dynamic environment because it’s not an altogether new platform. Much of the initial testing typically required on a new platform was accomplished during flight test of the other versions of the F-15. This has also allowed for seamless integration between developmental and operational test between the 53rd Wing, 96th Test Wing, and the Air Force Reserve Command’s 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron. During Northern Edge, some pilots are flying the F-15EX for just the second time ever, which showcases how smooth the transition is from the F-15C to the F-15EX. Furthermore, The F-15EX is flying with Suite 9.1 “X,” a version of Operational Flight Program Suite 9.1, which is comparable to Suite 9.1 “RR” that F-15Es and F-15Cs are currently testing and preparing to field.
“As an Air Force, we are charged by the CSAF, Gen. Brown, to accelerate change; by bringing the F-15EX to Northern Edge already, we are getting after that objective,” said Col. Ryan Messer, 53rd Wing Commander. “Northern Edge is the ideal initial stress test for the platform, and we are fully integrating it just like any other aircraft participating. The objective of operational test isn’t for everything to go perfectly, but to identify what needs improvement, and Northern Edge, with its opportunities for fourth-fifth generation integration in a complex range environment, will show us exactly that.”
NE21 is a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercise designed to provided high-end, realistic war fighter training, develop and improve joint interoperability, and enhance the combat readiness of participating forces. This is done by providing a venue for large force employment training and multi-domain operations; tactical training for the full spectrum of conflict; execute and advance adaptive basing joint tactics, techniques, and procedures; advance live-virtual-constructive capabilities; and support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s experimental initiatives. The F-15EX’s participation supports the development of many of these objectives.