Boeing says F-15EX can't reach nearly Mach 3

Boeing says F-15EX can’t reach nearly Mach 3,” clarifies Boeing’s director of business development, Robert Novotny, in response to recent claims.

The true merit of a fighter lies not only in its ability to sustain level or controlled flight at extreme speeds but rather in its agility in maneuvering, the effectiveness in the use of its weapons and its ability to evade detection.

Last Friday, the person in charge of Boeing’s commercial development area for the F-15, with minimal variation in his previous statements, adjusted the information regarding the maximum speed achievable by the F-15EX.

Robert “Blend’r” Novotny, a veteran US Air Force F-15 aviator and current director of business development at Boeing Defense, clarified in a LinkedIn post. This response was directed to an article in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, written by Steve Trimble, editor of the defense section of the publication above, at the beginning of the previous week.

Trimble’s text compiled statements by Novotny made during the Singapore Air Show concerning the top speed of the Eagle II. In his presentation at that event, Novotny indicated that the most recent version of the F-15 could reach speeds “considerably higher than Mach 2.5.”

Trimble, after contacting me last Wednesday by email, said that while it was aware that the EX slightly exceeded Mach 2.5, it was unaware that it exceeded that mark by a significant margin.

Trimble questioned Novotny for additional details. The latter specified that the fighter’s speed “limit” is Mach 2.9, which, as Trimble pointed out, borders on the threshold of Mach 3. This data was the subject of my analysis last week, and it was also mentioned by other media specialized in defense.

However, Novotny’s subsequent comment on LinkedIn suggested that the claim about the Mach 2.9 speed limit for the F-15EX could be inaccurate or perhaps mistakenly revealed classified information about the aircraft’s capabilities.

“What we can really achieve with the Eagle jet is Mach 2,497,” Novotny stated on LinkedIn, “this is close to [Mach] 2.5, but far from Mach 3…”. Despite this, he reaffirmed his initial statement: “Yes, he’s fast.”

F-15EX: On the verge of Mach 2.5, but without surpassing the MiG-25

Mach 2.5 is equivalent to approximately 1,903 mph, an impressive speed for the record. However, this rectification underlines that the Eagle has not (at least officially) surpassed the legendary Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat, which recorded a takeoff speed of Mach 2.8.

In terms of pure performance, both fighters managed to reach their maximum speeds in essentially aerodynamic configurations. Although it is rumored that the Foxbat was capable of reaching such speeds, even when armed with R-40 air-to-air missiles, neither has managed to match the maximum speed of Mach 3.2 achieved by the Lockheed SR-71 in the configuration of combat.

Despite Novotny’s suggestions that the Eagle II could reach its maximum speed at sea level (a possible misunderstanding arising from its presentation in Singapore), these marks are more likely to be obtained at high altitudes.

AvWeek’s Steve Trimble argues that there is evidence that some versions of the Eagle have exceeded the Mach 2,497 limit, including the F-15E Strike Eagle, a variant of the F-15 that shares a nearly identical two-seat configuration as the EX. He highlights that the official Air Force data sheet for the F-15E mentions that the fighter’s maximum speed is greater than Mach 2.5.

Beyond numbers in the age of advanced technology

Boeing says F-15EX can't reach nearly Mach 3

Discussions about top speed and the emphasis on it often turn out to be somewhat illusory. The true merit of a fighter lies not only in its ability to sustain level or controlled flight at extreme speeds but rather in its agility in maneuvering, the effectiveness in the use of its weapons and its ability to evade detection.

In essence, Boeing’s F-15EX narrative revives the unofficial speed rivalry between fighters and interceptors that marked the Cold War during the 1950s and 1960s. The Soviet Union had its importance in ensuring altitude superiority and the ability to intercept incoming air threats; it also symbolized a matter of national prestige and technological prowess.

This struggle to achieve supreme speeds was not exclusive to the military field; It extended to the development of supersonic commercial aviation and the subsequent “space race.”

With the recent fascination with hypersonic weapons and speed as a recurring theme in the media, the old desire to achieve speed records that challenge known limits seems to be reborn. Although the F-15EX is undoubtedly a combat device of exceptional capabilities and speed, it is still far from touching the Mach 3 barrier.