The US Air Force’s brand new F-15EX Eagle fighter jet performed a 90-minute maiden flight on Tuesday from St. Louis Lambert International Airport in Missouri.
The jet is the first of two aircraft that will be delivered for testing by March. The F-15EX took to the air to test out its basic handling, avionics, and software.
The F-15EX was born out of a historic deal last year when the US Air Force awarded Boeing a $23 billion contract to fulfill an urgent requirement for cutting edge fighters.
Currently, the Air Force has 453 F-15s, the last of which was ordered in 2001. The F-15s have stronger airframes, advanced sensors, and conformal fuel tanks that ensure it stands out from other jets in the US fleet. Boeing said the F-15EX bears a similarity of 70 percent to existing US F-15s.
Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager Pratyush Kumar said the test flight has ensured the jet is safe and ready to join the country’s fighter fleet, adding, “Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the US Air Force.”
The F-15EX boasts advanced missile carrying racks, ensuring it can carry more weapons than any other fighter in its class. The aircraft will be able to carry 22 missiles during a single sortie and can launch missiles over 20 feet long (6 meters) weighing up to 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilos).
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) February 2, 2021
With features including a revised internal wing structure, updated radio, and satellite communications, and the highly advanced Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare and surveillance suite, the F-15 EX jet is unmatched in its range and payload capacity.
“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” commander of Air Combat Command General Mike Holmes said last year.
The Air Force plans to buy as many as 144 F-15EXs to replace the fleet of Eagles that are aging out and have a decade of service life remaining.
The F-15EX is expected to reach initial operational capability by 2024 and will have sufficient structural life to serve through 2050.