Back to the future as new F-15s slated to come to Eglin AFB
By JIM THOMPSON | Northwest Florida Daily News | Published: July 22, 2020
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — The first eight of a planned Air Force purchase of 76 F-15EX fighter jets will be coming to Eglin Air Force Base for testing, with the first two of those aircraft slated to arrive sometime early next year, according to an announcement from the office of the Secretary of the Air Force.
Following the arrival of the first two aircraft, which are already being built by Boeing under the terms of a $1.2 billion contract with the Air Force covering the cost of the first eight jets, the additional six jets will be delivered sometime in late 2022 or early 2023.
Overall, the Air Force plans to buy dozens more of the jets through 2026, with the Boeing contract potentially bringing as much as $23 billion to the Chicago-based commercial and military aerospace company. Decisions on where those jets will be based will be made under the terms of a longstanding strategic Air Force process.
The two-seater F-15EX is designed to replace the aging F-15C/D fleet. The original F-15 model, the F-15B, was first delivered to the Air Force in 1974.
"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," Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, said in the announcement from the office of the Secretary of the Air Force. "The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line."
The F-15EX is designed to complement the F-35 Lightning II, the U.S. military's latest fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, which is operated by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps along with a number of U.S. partner nations.
The F-15EX can carry more and larger munitions than the F-35, and will be capable of carrying the hypersonic weapons — missiles that can fly at five times the speed of sound or faster —now in development in the United States as it works to catch up with China and Russia. Some of the hypersonic weapons development work is being done by Eglin-based units.
Boeing touts the F-15EX as an aircraft that, given the ongoing use of the admittedly aging F-15 C/D fleet, won't require any new training squadrons or aircraft program offices that would be associated with a completely new aircraft. Boeing also contends that the F-15EX's software can be rapidly updated, ensuring the jet's "relevance for years to come."
"When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years," Holmes said.