The US Air Force newest fighter aircraft — the F-15EX Eagle II — recently conducted a successful missile test that brought the aircraft closer to being able to hold more air-to-air missiles than any other jet in the service.
Unlike the F-15 Eagle, which can only carry eight missiles, the Boeing-built F-15EX has four additional missile slots near the aircraft’s wing tips, providing a firepower boost as the Air Force relies on the Eagle II to maintain air superiority.
US Air Force F-15EX
According to Defense News, the F-15EX Eagle II will also carry more missiles than the Air Force’s other fighter jets. The F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter each have a missile capacity of six, eight, and six, respectively.
Maj. Jeremy Schnurbusch, an Air Force pilot who fired one of the missiles during the recent test mission, described the event as a “milestone” for the aircraft’s ability to “deliver increased payload capacity to combat air forces.”
The F-15EX Eagle II is a two-seater aircraft that can carry up to 30,000 pounds of missiles and munitions. After a brief development period, the plane was unveiled in the summer of 2021.
The US Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for the aircraft in July 2020, which is intended to replace the Air Force’s highly successful but aging fleet of F-15C/D fighter jets.
In late January 2022, an F-15EX successfully launched its first missile, a medium-range air-to-air missile at a target drone over the Gulf of Mexico.
Following the recent test, the Air Force announced that once testing is completed, operational units will receive F-15EX fighters capable of carrying a full load of 12 missiles.
Following two years of testing, the US Air Force discovered that the number and tonnage of weapons carried by its new F-15EX fighter jet exceeded expectations.
The Air Force received the first eight F-15EX fighter bombers it ordered in mid-2020 for $150 million each in early 2021. This is an upgraded F-15E that will replace elderly F-15Es that will have to be retired or flown much less frequently due to heavy use during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
The F-15EX has been tested with the ability to carry and launch up to 12 air-to-air missiles. Previously, the maximum number of missiles carried suspended from the wings was eight, with six being more common. The F-15EX can carry more weapons than any other F-15 model, up to 13.6 tons.
The F-15EX is less expensive to buy and operate than the F-35, and it is more capable of missions that do not rely heavily on stealth.
The EX upgrades allow the single-seat F-15EX to perform the same bomber functions as the two-seat F-15E, allowing it to fly for 20,000 hours at a cost of $29,000 per hour. This is one-third of the operational cost of the F-35, which costs around $100 million per aircraft.