The US Air Force has picked a name for its new F-15EX fighter plane.
Lt. Gen. Mike Loh, Air National Guard director; Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics; and Leanne Caret, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space & Security at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, made the announcement. Eglin is where the first F-15EX is undergoing testing and evaluation.
During an unveiling ceremony at the base, they announced that the new plane will be called the F-15 Eagle II in a nod to its predecessor the F-15 Eagle.
The F-15EX is the first US Air Force fourth-generation fighter program in over 20 years.
The maiden flight for the new plane took place in February at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. After that success, the Air Force accepted the first of the planes on March 10th at Eglin. The second F-15EX is expected to arrive at the base this month. Six more are due to be delivered in 2023.
Boeing won the estimated $1.2 billion contract from the Air Force to build the multi-role fighter. It uses the same design as the F-15 Eagle but uses up-to-date electronics and technologies.
The contract is for the eight planes, the initial design, development, testing, certification, spare parts, support equipment, training and technical data and delivery and sustainment costs.
Boeing claims that their plane is capable of launching hypersonic weapons that are as long as 22 feet and weigh as much as 7,000 pounds. They improved the avionics and the radars and gave it the ability to carry more than 24 air-to-air missiles.
Current F-15s can only carry 8 missiles.
The F-15EX also features “the world’s fastest mission computer’ and the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) which will improve the threat assessment capabilities of the pilot.
The first eight planes are being delivered to Eglin because of the testing facilities there. After testing, the first plane will be used by the Air National Guard.
Officials have raised concerns about the aging F-15 fleet since 2017. In 2019, Heather Wilson (the Air Force Secretary at that time), stated that metal fatigue within the longerons was a serious problem in the fleet. Richardson said more recently that three-quarters of the F-15 C/D fleet is “well beyond” the service life for the aircraft.
Over the next ten years, the Air Force intends to build up a fleet of at least 144 F-15EX fighters. The contract allows the force to buy up to 200 of the planes from Boeing.
The Air Force is currently working on determining the proper mix of aircraft in their inventory as well as assessing the way future fighter plane technologies and concepts will fit into that inventory mix.
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Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CG” Brown has said that the force is considering a new fighter jet that could replace the F-16. That plane has been in use for 40 years.