The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron completed a munitions proof-of-concept called Project Strike Rodeo, May 11, 2021, that validated loading five AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) on an F-15E Strike Eagle. This lays the foundation for follow-on flight testing that would more than double the F-15E’s current JASSM-carrying capacity. The grass-roots initiative started in January 2021 during a WEPTAC working group. A team of expert tacticians were working through a specific scenario that relied on the ability to escort a bomber loaded with stand-off munitions to a release point in a highly-contested environment.
Some warfighters hypothesized that using a formation of fighters instead of a single bomber to employ the JASSM salvo could not only reduce the size and complexity of the strike package required to execute the mission, it would also distribute mission risk across the force. Unfortunately, the maximum number of JASSMs any fighter can currently carry is two, meaning though the idea is feasible it wasn’t viable based on the number of fighters required, unless… a fighter could carry more JASSMs. With this idea in mind, the F-15E Strike Eagle was the platform considered for taking on the task of carrying more JASSMs, and Project Strike Rodeo was born.
Unfortunately, the munitions would not fit on the conformal fuel tank weapons stations of the F-15E, as JASSM was designed to be loaded directly from the base of their shipping containers, which is too large to fit under the F-15E without hitting the main landing gear. A small Eglin-based team was formed comprising multiple units within the 53d Wing, 96 Test Wing, and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to find a solution. The team designed and manufactured a special loading tool and wrote new weapons loading procedures. Project Strike Rodeo then drew the interest of the F-15 System Program Office, which provided the funding to execute this load test.
The AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) is a low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Armed Forces. It is a large, stealthy long-range weapon with a 1,000 pound (454 kg) armor piercing warhead. It completed testing and entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 2009, and has entered foreign service in Australia, Finland, and Poland as of 2014. An extended range version of the missile, the AGM-158B JASSM-ER (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range), entered service in 2014. By September 2016, Lockheed Martin had delivered 2,000 total JASSMs comprising both variants to the USAF.