US Air Force Conducts Maiden F-15EX Aircraft Operational Test

The US Air Force (USAF) conducted the first operational test of its newly-acquired F-15EX aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, from October 18 to 25.

The main focus of the evaluation was on the aircraft’s advantages over the older C model and its Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS).

Explaining the differences between the two versions, Maj. Kevin Hand, an F-15EX experimental and operational test pilot with the Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Test Center, said the EX is “a digital flight control system. So it’s a fly-by-wire aircraft, versus the traditional C model, which is a standard hydro-mechanical aircraft completely controlled by the pilot, versus now a computer controlling the airplane.”

Electronic Warfare System

The EPAWSS provides situational awareness and countermeasures capabilities to the aircrew against radio frequency to detect and defeat enemy aircraft, air-to-air missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. It is designed to “integrate and replace three of the F-15 legacy Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS) components: the AN/ALR-56C Radar Warning Receiver, AN/ALQ-135 Internal Countermeasures Set, and AN/ALE-45 Countermeasures Dispenser Set.” 

Maj. Hand said that EPAWSS is “going to give us the ability to go into these more advanced threats or aerial denial kind of situations where we can now self-protect and self-jam our way through.”

Maj. Kevin Hand prepares to taxi out for a mission from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, October 20, 2021. Photo: William R. Lewis/US Air Force

The air force inducted two EXs, the first in March, then another in April, as part of an eight aircraft deal the Department of Defense signed with Boeing last year. All the aircraft are expected to arrive within three years of the contract signing.

F-15EX Development Tests

Since their arrival, the aircraft have undergone a series of development tests and have conducted operational missions as part of Northern Edge in Alaska.

Colton Myers, F-15EX test project manager, Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force, said that the main purpose of the test is to “evaluate the platform from an end-to-end perspective, with the addition of a robust threat environment that we have here at Nellis.”

Following the operational test, the aircraft will return to Eglin Air Force Base, where they will undergo more development tests to add additional capability, including “weapon stations and additional Operational Flight Program upgrades.”

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