Boeing‘s [BA] first two F-15EX fighters are participating in the joint U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Northern Edge 21 exercise over Alaska less than two months after the company delivered the first jet to the U.S. Air Force.
Boeing delivered its first F-15EXs to Eglin AFB, Fla. for testing on March 11 and a second on Apr. 20–a delivery that the company said came “earlier than the contract requirement” (Defense Daily, Apr. 21).
Northern Edge is to test the F-15EX’s interoperability with older and newer platforms, including other 4th generation aircraft and with 5th generation fighters–the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-22 and F-35–and how the F-15EX, dubbed the “Eagle II,” operates in a “complex jamming environment,” the Air Force said. “This is critical to expose the F-15EX to this environment now to make changes early on and allow for an aggressive test and fielding timeline.”
Northern Edge, held every odd year, is to provide joint forces opportunities to train in combat realistic environments with such concepts as agile combat employment and Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
Maj. Aaron Eshkenazi, an F-15EX pilot with the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin, said in a statement that Northern Edge will feature a GPS, radar, and Link 16 jamming environment.
Eshkenazi said that the F-15EX thus far has been performing “really well” with more than 60 other aircraft during the exercise, which began May 3rd and is to run through May 14th.
Northern Edge is also to test out other F-15EX features, such as the Raytheon Technologies [RTX] AN/APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, the L3Harris Technologies [LHX] Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System and its ability to defend the F-15EX and other allied aircraft, and the F-15EX’s digital Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II (JHMCS II) by Collins Elbit Vision Systems, a joint venture of Collins Aerospace and Elbit Systems of America. The digital JHMCS II, which is also to field on Lockheed Martin F-16 Vipers, has a visor projected display, an optical-inertial tracking device and uplook reticles for rapid target identification.
Collins is part of Raytheon Technologies and Elbit America is part of Israel’s Elbit Systems [ESLT].
The F-15EX is flying with Suite 9.1X, a version of Operational Flight Program Suite 9.1, “which is comparable to Suite 9.1 ‘RR’ that F-15Es and F-15Cs are currently testing and preparing to field,” the Air Force said.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, the director of the Air National Guard (ANG), said at last month’s roll-out of the F-15EX 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 hypersonic 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.
The Air Force has said that a service life extension of legacy F-15C/Ds, which have an average age of 37 years, is “cost prohibitive.”
The service plans to recapitalize all ANG F-15Cs and Ds with the F-35A or the F-15EX.