The first of the Air Force’s brand new F-15EX Eagle fighter jets has taken flight for the first time, offering a glimpse of what the service’s first new F-15 in nearly 20 years might look like.
Produced by Boeing and first unveiled to the world by our friends at The War Zone in 2018, the F-15EX first took flight at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in Missouri on Tuesday, completing a 90-minute test flight before landing.
To mark the occasion, the F-15EX took to the air with a so-called ‘Viking” takeoff, which saw the aircraft climb at a steep angle with an afterburner assist to quickly gain altitude.
Boeing F-15 Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese “checked out the multirole jet’s avionics, advanced systems, and software” while a ground-based test team “confirmed that the aircraft performed as planned” based on real-time data collected during the flight, the company said in a statement.
“Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager. “Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.”
If the F-15EX’s Viking takeoff looks familiar, it should: Boeing pulled the same move back in April with the first flight of the F-15QA that, developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force and billed as “the most advanced version of the jet ever manufactured,” has informed the development of the former.
The first flight of the F-15EX is just the beginning for the new fighter jet. In July, the Air Force awarded a nearly $1.2 billion contract to Boeing to produce its first lot of eight F-15EX, releasing a photo of the first of the new aircraft in production.
These eight F-15EX aircraft were approved as part of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2020 budget, and 12 additional aircraft were requested as part of its fiscal year 2021 budget, according to the service.
“Future plans” may call for the production of as many as 144 F-15EX aircraft, according to Boeing.
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,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes said in a statement back in July.
In its July news release, Boeing noted that the F-15EX “carries more weapons than any other fighter in its class, and can launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds.”
The aircraft will also host “fly-by-wire flight controls, a new electronic warfare system, advanced cockpit systems, and the latest mission systems and software capabilities available for legacy F-15s,” according to the Air Force.
The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be fielded at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, to support testing efforts, according to the Air Force, with the first two aircraft scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of fiscal year 2021.
The last year that Boeing produced an F-15 fighter for the Air Force was in 2004, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.