US Air Force Orders New F-15EXs

The new fighter can carry a larger weapons payload than an F-35.

F-15EX
The F-15EX is a much-updated version of the original airplane that first flew in 1972.Boeing

The first McDonnell F-15 fighter jet flew back in July 1972, and yet Boeing reported last week that the US Air Force just ordered eight of the airplanes valued at just over $1.1 billion. The reasoning behind why the Air Force would buy a 50-year-old airplane made more sense once Boeing announced the airplanes were actually the newest version of the company’s fourth-generation plus F-15EX fighters. The Chicago-based aircraft builder said the Air Force plans to purchase as many as 144 of the F-15EX airplanes in the future.

The F-15 has always been a spectacular performer, according to Boeing. According to a story published by Air Force magazine, the new EX will include a “substantially more powerful mission computer, new cockpit displays, a digital backbone, and the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS)—an electronic warfare and threat identification system.”

In addition to the F-15s well-known and impressive flying characteristics, the F-15EX is capable of carrying an external payload of up to 22 AIM-9X Sidewinder and AMRAAM medium range air-to-air missiles. Though the most modern US fighter—the F-35—was developed as a stealth aircraft, it is only capable of carrying four AMRAAMs within its weapons bay in order to maintain its stealth capability.

Highlighting the spectacular performance of even the original F-15, Boeing said in a company history, “In early 1975, flying out of Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, an F-15A known as Streak Eagle set many time-to-climb world records. Between January 16 and February 1, 1975, the Streak Eagle broke eight time-to-climb world records. It reached an altitude of 98,425 feet just 3 minutes, 27.8 seconds from brake release at takeoff and coasted to nearly 103,000 feet before descending.”