By Theresa Hitchens
WASHINGTON: The Air Force, somewhat anti-climatically, has named its new F-15EX fighter the Eagle II, Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy to the service’s acquisition czar, announced today.
The Air National Guard will be the first to receive an operational aircraft, said director Lt. Gen. Mike Loh at today’s unveiling ceremony at Eglin AFB in Florida. Loh said that the F 15C now used by the Guard “quite frankly, … at the end of its lifecycle.” Therefore, the service plans to “recapitalize all Air National Guard, F-15 Cs and DS with either the F-35 A or the F-15EX.”
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The Guard, Loh noted, “flies 93% of Homeland Defense missions” and that the new jet’s capabilities will provide “significant” improvements over legacy planes, such as an “upgrade in weapons capacity, including the ability to carry outsize weapons for these missions, and for standoff roles in the high-end fight supporting our geographic Combatant Commanders.”
Indeed, the new F-15EX jets are sorely needed, according to Richardson.
“The F-15 C and D fleets, in their current state, places us at great risk,” he said, “with 75% of the fleet flying beyond its certified service life, and 10% grounded due to structural integrity issues. Projected modernization and service life extension of the F-15 C and D fleets is cost prohibitive for a platform with an average age of over 37 years.”
The F-15EX took its maiden flight on Feb. 2 at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, the Air Force said Feb. 11. Kingsley field is the home of the 173 Fighter Wing, which will become the training wing for the aircraft in 2024 — when it is to hit initial operational capability.
Boeing was awarded a 10-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract in July for the F-15EX with a ceiling of almost $22.9 billion. While the Air Force has yet to determine the ultimate size of the buy, the minimum number of aircraft under the contract is 144 and the maximum is 200.
The Air Force officially accepted the first F-15EX from Boeing March 10 at the company’s St. Louis facility. That aircraft will tested by the 96 Test Wing at Eglin. A second F-15EX will be delivered by the end of April 2021, for operational testing by Air Combat Command. The other six Lot 1 aircraft will be delivered to Eglin in 2023.
Lots 2 and 3 “are on track for delivery” in fiscal 2024 and 2025 to Kingsley Field and Portland Air National Guard Bases, both in Oregon, according to the Air Force website.
This article was written by Theresa Hitchens from Breaking Defense and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.