Boeing [BA] said that it delivered a second F-15EX fighter aircraft to the U.S. Air Force on Apr. 20–a delivery that the company said came “earlier than the contract requirement.”

Both of the F-15EXs are at Eglin AFB, Fla. for testing.

Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager, said in a statement on Apr. 21 that “along with state-of-the-art avionics and survivability suite, the new F-15EX includes almost 3 miles of high-speed digital data bus to enable open architecture, which will keep it evolving ahead of threats for decades.”

The Air Force rolled out the F-15EX–dubbed the “Eagle II””–in a joint service/industry ceremony two weeks ago at Eglin, while Danish officials and Lockheed Martin [LMT] held a simultaneous debut ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas for the induction of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A for the Royal Danish Air Force (Defense Daily

, Apr. 7).

Air Force Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the military deputy for Air Force acquisition, said at the Eglin ceremony that the service worked with Boeing to accelerate delivery of the first two F-15EXs from a standard time of 39 months after contract award to 9 months in keeping with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” strategy.

Richardson said a service life extension of legacy F-15C/Ds, which have an average age of 37 years, is “cost prohibitive.”

“The F-15C and D fleets in their current state place us at great risk with 75 percent of the fleet flying beyond its certified service life and 10 percent grounded due to structural integrity issues,” he said.

The service plans to recapitalize all Air National Guard (ANG) F-15Cs and Ds with the F-35A or the F-15EX, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, the director of the ANG, said at the Eglin ceremony that ANG aircraft fly 93 percent of homeland defense missions. The F-15EX represents a “significant upgrade” over the F-15C in weapons capacity for homeland defense missions and for standoff engagement using “outsize weapons” with near-peer adversaries, Loh said. Such “outsize weapons” could include the Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon on the F-15EX’s center-line weapons station.

The Air Force is to buy 144 F-15EXs, which will feature an Open Mission Systems architecture to permit rapid avionics upgrades.

In July last year, the Air Force awarded Boeing an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract for up to 200 F-15EXs. The Air Force said that the first F-15EX bases will be in Florida and Oregon.