US Air Force's new F-15EX fighter aircraft finally has a name

US Air Force's new F-15EX fighter aircraft finally has a name
Lt. Col. Richard "Tac" Turner, Commander, 40th Flight Test Squadron, and Lt. Col. Jacob "Duke" Lindaman, Commander, 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron, deliver the first F-15EX to its new home station, Eglin AFB, Florida, 11 March, 2021.U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Raven
  • The Air Force rolled out its new F-15EX fighter Wednesday, officially giving it a name.
  • The service is buying at least 144 "Eagle II" jets to replace the ageing fleet of F-15C/Ds.
  • The Air Force received its first F-15EX a little over a month after the aircraft's inaugural flight.

The Air Force officially rolled out its newest fighter jet Wednesday at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where the service finally announced its name.

The F-15EX will be called the "Eagle II," following in the naming tradition of the F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle.

The Air Force put in its first F-15EX order last July, ordering eight jets. The service plans to obtain at least 144 of these fighters to replace the ageing fleet of C and D variant F-15s.
The F-15 is an exceptional fighter aircraft, having never been shot down in combat, but the average age of the F-15C/D fleet is almost 40 years old. Around 75% of the fleet is flying past its service life, and 10% of the fighters are grounded due to various structural issues.
US Air Force's new F-15EX fighter aircraft finally has a name
The F-15EX, the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft, arrives to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, March 11, 2021.US Air Force/Samuel King Jr

Though the Air Force prefers the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, the Pentagon determined that the fourth-generation F-15EX fighters were a much more cost-effective option for quickly modernizing the F-15 fleet to maintain capacity. The Air Force is buying both platforms as replacements for older fighters.

The new F-15EX is a two-seat aircraft, though it can be flown by a single pilot, that features fly-by-wire controls, advanced avionics, including some electronic warfare upgrades, and digital cockpit displays.

It also has an increased payload capacity, with the ability to carry up to around 30,000 pounds of air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground munitions. While the F-15 is touted as an air superiority fighter, the military has regularly used this aircraft for ground-attack missions in post-9/11 conflicts.

The Boeing fighter made its first flight on Feb. 2, 2021 with test pilot Matt Giese in the cockpit. The aircraft took off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri and flew for 90 minutes, according to the manufacturer.
US Air Force's new F-15EX fighter aircraft finally has a name
The first F-15EX is delivered to its new home at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, March 11, 2021.US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. John Raven
The Air Force officially received its first F-15EX fighter from Boeing in Missouri on March 10, a little over two years after the Air Force chief of staff signed the F-15EX Rapid Fielding Requirement Document.

The first F-15EX fighter was then delivered to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida the next day. The aircraft has been going through developmental and operational testing on base.

Col. Sean Dorey, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate's F-15EX program manager, called the receipt fo the first F-15EX a "big moment for the Air Force."

"With its large weapons capacity, digital backbone, and open architecture, the F-15EX will be a key element of our tactical fighter fleet and complement 5th-generation assets," he said. Additionally, "it's capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts."

Two F-15EX fighter aircraft are being delivered this year. The remaining six jets in the first lot will be delivered in 2023. Delivery of aircraft in lots two and three will take place in fiscal years 2024 and 2025.