The US Air Force revealed that its F-15E fighter was recently test-loaded with five air-to-surface missiles, more than double the aircraft’s stated carrying capacity.
Following the “proof-of-concept,” the aircraft will now test-fly the enhanced load in five months, the service added.
How the Idea Emerged
The idea to increase the F-15E’s payload capacity occurred during a “working group” discussion in January in which participants hypothesized an aircraft group escorting a bomber carrying the munitions into a contested environment.
It emerged that rather than have the bomber launch the standoff munitions, it would be better to have the fighter release them.
The reasoning went that if the F-15E were to release the munitions, the much slower bomber would have more time to escape the contested space unharmed.
To implement the strategy, it was required to increase the missile-carrying capacity of the fighter aircraft, the air force said.
Project Strike Rodeo
Under Project Strike Rodeo, engineers developed workarounds to the loading process of the aircraft: “JASSMs (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles) are designed to be loaded from the base of shipping containers, which cannot fit under the F-15E,” the service explained.
“No one told us to do this,” said Lt. Col. Mike Benitez, the 53rd Wing director of staff, in the statement.
“We saw the need and the opportunity, so we executed. This infectious attitude drove every unit or office we coordinated with. Everyone wanted to see if we could do it, and no one ever pushed back and asked for a requirement or a formal higher headquarters tasking.”
The load test comes two months after the aircraft test flew with six Joint Direct Attack Munitions on a single side, potentially increasing the number of bombs the Strike Eagle can carry from nine to 15.