The US Air Force’s latest F-15EX fighter jet, which took its maiden flight earlier this month, can be seen with the service’s logo and color scheme. The color scheme applied is the same as that of the F-15C/D.
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The markings include that of the 40th Flight Test squadron and the Eglin Air Force base at Florida. The squadron would be responsible for testing the war machine to its maximum capabilities in the following months.
Images of the aircraft with the USAF markings clicked by photographer Alex Farewell of Viking Aero Images. They include shots of the F-15EX with its new look conducting a “Viking takeoff,” or a near-vertical takeoff as well as the recovery at the end of this latest test flight mission.
The aerospace giant Boeing is also pitching the F-15EX to India and Israel. The company has recently received the US government nod to sell its F-15EX to India.
Reportedly, this was the aircraft’s first flight in the hands of an Air Force test pilot, rather than one from Boeing, writes defense analyst Thomas Newdick for TheWarZone.
It is learned that the Eglin Air Force base will acquire two of such F-15EX by the end of 2021, for which rigorous testing would be conducted before the aircraft is accepted into the US Air Force. The service has been flying the F-15 variants since 1976, and the first model made its maiden flight about half a century ago.
Boeing had been awarded approximately $23 billion to work on the F-15EX project, a newer and presumably to become the most capable fourth-generation fighter jet to replace the aging F-15C/D fleet.
According to Boeing, the F-15EX requires no new logistics chains or infrastructure modification or program offices, or weapons integration, making it easier for the service to transition to the new fighter aircraft. The company even says that the units converting to F-15EX could transition within weeks or months after receiving the first aircraft.
“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,” General Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said last summer. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”
In 2018, the USAF and Boeing discussed a proposed F-15X, a single-seat variant based on the F-15QA intended to replace the USAF’s F-15C/Ds. Improvements include the AMBER weapons rack to carry up to 22 air-to-air missiles, IRST, advanced avionics and electronic warfare equipment, AESA radar, and revised structure with a service life of 20,000 hours.
In the FY 2020 budget, the US Department of Defense requested $1.1 billion to procure eight F-15EXs of total planned procurement of 144 F-15EXs. The USAF opted for the F-15EX to maintain fighter numbers after the premature termination of F-22 production, its aging F-15C fleet, and F-35 delays.
Although it is not expected to be survivable against modern air defenses by 2028, the F-15EX could perform homeland and airbase defense, no-fly zone enforcement against limited or no air defense systems, and deploying standoff munitions.
In July 2020, the US Defense Department ordered eight fighters over three years for $1.2 billion. In August 2020, the Air Force announced plans to replace the Air National Guard’s aging F-15Cs in Florida and Oregon with F-15EXs.
According to Boeing, the F-15EX can also carry hypersonic munitions and can serve as its primary weapons deployment platform. The company is also pitching the F-15EX to India and Israel, for which the latter recently approved orders for the F-35Is.