Boeing F-15EX Eagle II: “From Air Superiority to Air Supremacy”.

The first quarter of the 21st century has seen a return to high-intensity conflicts. Forgotten for a while after the collapse of the Soviet threat at the dawn of the 1990s, they are becoming topical again despite the ever-present presence of asymmetric warfare, especially against armed jihadist groups. And it is the appearance of a Chinese and/or Russian threat that makes this high intensity palpable. Now that staffs have converted to it, it is up to their suppliers to do so, and in particular to aircraft and helicopter manufacturers. In the United States, one of the answers came from Boeing with a very impressive air superiority fighter: the F-15EX Eagle II!

F-15 fighter jet

The years 2000 and 2010 saw Boeing exporting special versions of the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bomber developed by McDonnell-Douglas in the early 1980s. The idea of the Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer was to offer the most affluent of its military customers the most modular air combat and precision attack platform possible. As a result, Israelis, Saudis, Singaporeans and South Koreans have been able to buy aircraft adapted to their needs. The latest customer was Qatar, which in 2017 purchased its aircraft under the F-15QA designation.

Aware of the ever-growing evolution of the aircraft, the US Air Force began to show renewed interest in it. Boeing was initially wary of the aircraft, having suffered from the failure of the F-15SE Silent Eagle, which had stealth elements and was ultimately rejected by the Pentagon. But by the beginning of 2018, the situation had changed significantly on the international scene. The rise of Chinese expansionism had added to that of Russia, which had annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea four years earlier.
America needed fighters for a hypothetical high-intensity conflict. The F-15X Advanced Eagle program was born.

In fact, Boeing knew that the future of its aircraft was taking shape with the scheduled end of the McDonnell-Douglas F-15C/D Eagle fighters. One unknown remained in this year of 2018, however: Lockheed-Martin. Many in the United States did not know whether or not Boeing’s number one competitor would restart the assembly line for its F-22A Raptor air superiority fighter. At the time, it was the only aircraft capable of preventing the future mass production of the F-15X Advanced Eagle. Lockheed-Martin’s announcement reassured Chicago and Seattle that the stealth aircraft assembly line would be shut down in 2021. Nothing more stood in Boeing’s way.

The first drafts showed a single-seat fighter designed to carry and fire up to 22 AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range missiles. The aircraft would be equipped with a new active antenna radar.
Finally, after several negotiations, it became clear to the US Air Force that the Boeing F-15X Advanced Eagle would be a two-seat tandem aircraft. A secondary capability of penetration and precision attack was acquired. The AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon and the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile were added to its arsenal. Yet the Pentagon insisted that the F-15X was intended for air-to-air missions, with air-to-ground remaining the number one prerogative of the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II. In December 2018 the US Air Force formalized its interest in the aircraft requesting the acquisition by the US Department of Defense of twelve pre-production aircraft. A few months later, the US Congress rejected the request, authorizing the purchase of only eight machines.

In the meantime, the F-15X had become the F-15EX. From then on, Boeing’s teams really got to work. Externally, the Advanced Eagle owed a lot to the Strike Eagle but also to the aborted Silent Eagle. Like it, it had a degraded radar signature. Not that the aircraft was stealthy, it was in fact more discreet on radar than a traditional Eagle. In addition to the many points of carriage for air-to-air missiles distributed a little everywhere on the fuselage and the wing the plane saw generalizing the CFT, the tanks in conformity fixed on the extrados of wing, at the level of the junction with the fuselage.
The M61-A1 Vulcan six times 20 millimeter rotary cannon was kept as well as the two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbojet engines of a unit thrust of 6618 kilograms without afterburner and 10782 with.
It is in this configuration that the plane realized its first flight on February 2, 2021.

F-15 fighter jet

From then on, everything went very fast, as if the US Air Force was in a hurry to get its fighter planes. The official requirement was announced at a minimum of 144 aircraft. Five weeks after the maiden flight, the first pre-production aircraft was delivered to the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin AFB in Florida.
On April 7, 2021, the aircraft received its final designation: Boeing F-15EX Eagle II. This designation marked the affiliation with the pure fighter versions F-15A/B and F-15C/D rather than the F-15E. Now the first production aircraft were officially scheduled to enter active service in 2025. Boeing confirmed that its assembly lines were ready.

In May 2021, the first two Boeing F-15EX Eagle IIs were engaged in a series of large-scale air maneuvers in Alaska. Now the U.S. Air Force had begun preparations for the future entry into service of the aircraft that would become the protector of American skies as well as the one that would suppress any enemy threat while Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning IIs struck ground targets.
A future mission profile validated in November 2021 by U.S. lawmakers.

The Boeing F-15EX Eagle II is a pure adaptation of an existing aircraft to the market and to diplomatic and tactical realities, and should allow the Eagle’s recognizable silhouette to fly beyond 2050. The airframes of each aircraft are announced for a minimum life expectancy of 20,000 flight hours.
In addition to the US Air Force, the aircraft is of great interest to Israel and, more surprisingly, to Indonesia. It has also been proposed to India. Boeing intends to capitalize on the success of the F-15E Strike Eagle to sell its new fighter. At the end of 2021, the aircraft’s career was just beginning thanks to the pre-production aircraft.

Tactically speaking, Boeing and the US Air Force have developed an air superiority fighter designed for air supremacy. This doctrine is not new and consists of extinguishing any enemy desire to take to the air in the face of allied fighters. The Boeing F-15EX Eagle II is the American descendant of the European Panavia Tornado ADV.

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