US Air Force's new F-15EX fighter aircraft finally has a name

Ryan Pickrell
·4 min read
Lt. Col. Richard "Tac" Turner, Commander, 40th Flight Test Squadron, and Lt. Col. Jacob "Duke" Lindaman, Commander, 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron, deliver the first F-15EX to its new home station, Eglin AFB, Florida, 11 March, 2021.
Lt. Col. Richard "Tac" Turner, the commander of the 40th Flight Test Squadron, and Lt. Col. Jacob "Duke" Lindaman, the commander of the 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron, deliver the first F-15EX to Eglin Air Force Base on March 11. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Raven
  • The Air Force rolled out its F-15EX fighter on Wednesday, officially giving it a name.

  • The service has said it will buy at least 144 "Eagle II" jets to replace the aging fleet of F-15C/Ds.

  • The Air Force received its first F-15EX a little over a month after the aircraft's inaugural flight.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Air Force officially rolled out its newest fighter jet on Wednesday at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where the service finally announced its name.

The F-15EX will be called the "Eagle II," following the naming tradition of the F-15C Eagle and the F-15E Strike Eagle.

The Air Force put in its first F-15EX order last July, ordering eight jets. The service says it plans to obtain at least 144 of these fighters to replace the aging fleet of C- and D-variant F-15s.

The F-15 Eagle is an exceptional fighter aircraft, having never been shot down in air-to-air combat, but the average age of the F-15C/D fleet is almost 40 years old. About 75% of the fleet is flying past its service life, and 10% of the fighters are grounded because of various structural issues, the Air Force said.

Air Force F-15EX fighter jet
The first F-15EX arrives at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on March 11. US Air Force/Samuel King Jr

Though the Air Force prefers the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, the Pentagon determined that the fourth-generation F-15EX fighters were a much more cost-effective option for quickly modernizing the F-15 fleet to maintain capacity. The Air Force is buying both platforms as replacements for older fighters.

The new F-15EX is a two-seat aircraft - though it can be flown by a single pilot - that features fly-by-wire controls, advanced avionics (including some electronic warfare upgrades), and digital cockpit displays.

It also has an increased payload capacity, with the ability to carry up to 30,000 pounds of air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground munitions. While the F-15 is touted as an air superiority fighter, the military has regularly used this aircraft for ground-attack missions in post-9/11 conflicts.

The Boeing fighter made its first flight on February 2 with a test pilot, Matt Giese, in the cockpit. The aircraft took off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis and flew for 90 minutes, Boeing said.

Air Force F-15EX fighter jet
The F-15EX is the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft. US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. John Raven

The Air Force received its first F-15EX fighter from Boeing in Missouri on March 10, a little over two years after the Air Force chief of staff signed the F-15EX Rapid Fielding Requirement Document.

The first F-15EX fighter was delivered to Eglin Air Force Base the next day. The aircraft has been going through developmental and operational testing on base.

Col. Sean Dorey, the F-15EX program manager for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate, called the receipt of the first F-15EX "a big moment for the Air Force."

"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," he said, adding that "it's capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts."

Two F-15EX fighter aircraft are being delivered this year. The remaining six jets in the first lot are set to be delivered in 2023. Delivery of aircraft in lots two and three are scheduled for fiscal 2024 and 2025.

Update: This post has been updated to clarify that no F-15 Eagle has been shot down in air-to-air combat. "Undefeated in aerial combat, the F-15 Eagle epitomized air superiority," an Air Force general said at Wednesday's rollout.

Read the original article on Business Insider