The Eagle II validated the use of standoff air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and the data collected will help inform the full rate production decision.
The U.S. Air Force announced that the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron recently validated the F-15EX Eagle II’s employment of the longest Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground standoff munitions in the Department of Defense combat inventory. The capstone event of the Integrated Test & Evaluation (IT&E) Phase I was the launch of three AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles in a single sortie during the 53rd Wing’s Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP).
“Proving the F-15EX capability to employ three JASSMs after witnessing validation of the Air-to-Air dominance role it can play with a 12 AMRAAM loadout is incredible,” said Maj. Calvin Conner, 85th TES F-15 division commander. “The firepower a 4-ship of F-15EXs brings to a combatant commander is tremendous.”
A 53rd Wing spokesperson said to Air & Space Forces Magazine that the three JASSMs were launched during Combat Hammer, the air-to-ground-specific phase of the broader WSEP, at Hill Air Force Base. The classified data from the launches is under heavy evaluation, however the spokesperson confirmed everything went perfectly and it has been proved the F-15EX can easily employ the AGM-158 during operational missions.
A spokesperson confirmed to Defense News that during testing the Eagle II also launched Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), without specifying which variant, and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB). The weapons were employed during a wide range of scenarios to reflect operational conditions the Eagle II might find itself into. So far there has been no mention of the testing on the F-15EX of the other standoff munition in the Air Force inventory, the AGM-154 Joint Stand Off Weapon, which in the past has been integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle.
According to the press release, during Integrated Test & Evaluation (IT&E) Phase I, the F-15EX participated in 19 Large Force Exercise events where it integrated with 5th generation aircraft, recorded the longest Air-to-Air Missile employment, and validated the first F-15EX employment of the longest non-nuclear Air-to-Ground munition release in the inventory.
The rapid testing and fielding of the F-15EX is due in part to the fully integrated developmental and operational test teams housed at Eglin AFB, said the Air Force. These testers, originating from the 40th Flight Test Squadron, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, and Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force (OFP CTF), have expedited the test timeline setting a precedent for future aircraft programs, to include the B-21 Raider.
The synergy between all parties involved in the unconventional testing, which allowed to complete IT&E1 in just two years, was also praised last year by Colton Myers, F-15EX test project manager with the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force. “For a new platform, we’ve made an incredible amount of progress in a short period of time, I don’t know of any other platform that has undergone such a rapid test program and it’s been incredible to be a part of the team that’s bringing this to reality,” said Myers. “The combined DT/OT strategy has been critical to our test success, allowing us to break the mold of ‘traditional’ testing, while ultimately resulting in an overall better product for the warfighter, and in a shorter timeline than if we adopted the traditional approach”.
As we mentioned when the aircraft was first delivered, while the 40th Flight Test Squadron took possession of EX1 for the developmental testing (DT), EX2 was assigned to the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, which is in charge of the operational testing (OT). The third F-15EX, which was built in the final operational configuration and likely incorporates all the possible modifications required after the test campaign at Eglin Air Force Base, is expected to be delivered soon.
The next step for the F-15EX Eagle II is now the full rate production phase, which will be informed by the IT&E1 data currently being analyzed by the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and Office of the Secretary of Defense Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. The decision is expected to be announced by the end of the year, according to the Air Force.