The US Air Force has received its first F-15EX fighter jet from Boeing and will soon begin testing the hypersonic-capable aircraft in Florida, Col. Sean Dorey said in a press release.
“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. In addition, it’s capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts,” Dorey said on Thursday.
Boeing’s St. Louis facility delivered the aircraft on March 10 and the Air Force will begin testing it at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the release said.
A second F-15EX will arrive at Eglin Air Force Base by the end of April 2021, before six more are delivered in the fiscal year 2023, the release also said.
The Air Force plans to acquire 144 F-15EXs as part of a broader effort to replace its aging F-15 fleet, the release added.
In July, the US Air Force and Boeing signed a $1.2 billion contract to build the first eight jets capable of carrying more weapons than any other fighter in its class and launching hypersonic weapons weighing up to 7,000 pounds [3.5 tonnes].
Meanwhile, the US Air Force has designated the First Air Force which has served North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) to be the future air component of the new Space Command that was set up last year, the Air Force News Service (AFNS) said in a report.
“The US Air Force has named First Air Force as the future air component to US Space Command,” the report said on Thursday. “First Air Force will continue to provide uninterrupted air component support to North American Aerospace Defense Command and US Northern Command while also exercising command and control over Air Force forces supporting US Space Command.”
Implementation of the move is still in its early development phases as Air Combat Command plans how to organize, train and equip First Air Force for this new role, the report said. The new air component is currently expected to achieve initial operating capability by the end of the calendar year 2021, it added.
“First Air Force was the natural choice to serve as [an] Air Force component to US Space Command. In this new role, First Air Force will be better able to identify and address gaps and seams when integrating spacepower into the support of the homeland defense mission,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown said in the report.
The move would also inform efforts to better fuse space operations into air operations centers around the globe, Brown added.