The F-15EX will have more air-to-air missiles than any other fighter.

The 50-year-old airframe of the F-15 remains the workhorse of the United States Air Force (USAF), and with its latest variant, the F-15EX Eagle 2, the aircraft is shaping up to be the most powerful in the United States.

In a recent missile test, the Eagle 2 could carry more AAMs(air-to-air missiles) than any other USAF fighter.

During a test over the Gulf of Mexico in late November, two F-15EX Eagle 2 aircraft from the 96th Test Wing reportedly used their upgraded weapon stations, known as Stations 1 and 9, to launch missiles. The test was announced in a press statement released by Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) on January 4.

Using the Eglin Test and Training Complex’s firing range, pilots from the 96th Test Wing successfully fired an AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile from Station 1 and an AIM-9X from Station 9 for the first time.

“ The successful employment of these weapons is an important step in demonstrating the missile capability of the Eagle II aircraft of 12 air-to-air missiles,” the USAF said, noting that prior to the F-15EX Eagle 2, F-15EX aircraft models -15 could carry eight air-to-air missiles. At the same time, the Eagle 2 adds four additional missile stations located towards the wingtips.

F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-22 Raptors, and F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter can each carry up to six missiles, while the F-15EX will be able to carry up to eight.

“I am really proud to be a part of this milestone for the F-15EX program to deliver increased payload capacity to combat air forces,” said Maj. Jeremy Schnurbusch, a pilot with the 40th FLTS, fired the AIM-9X missile.

The Eglin AFB statement claims that both Eagle 2 planes successfully fired their missiles in two consecutive runs against a drone target.

“Having been a part of the Eglin F-15EX team since day one, it is exciting to see the progress made and new milestones reached as we work to bring the most combat-capable F-15EX to the field,” said Maj. Brett. Hughes successfully fired the AIM-120 from Station 1.

F-15EX Eagle II

The F-15EX will have more air-to-air missiles than any other fighter.

According to reports, the successful but aging fleet of F-15C/D Air National Guard units that protect the maritime borders of the United States has been replaced with the latest model of the F-15 air superiority fighters.

The F-15EX is identical to a standard F-15 but includes a modern fly-by-wire (FBW) system, a more powerful processor, and an improved electronic warfare (EW) suite.

The FBW is an electronic flight control system (FCS) that is computer-controlled and semi-automatic rather than relying on mechanical flight controls.

In the past, pilots would have to manually adjust the FCS’s control surfaces to the aircraft’s aerodynamic environment by using a system of levers, rods, cables, pulleys, etc.

Although mechanical flight controls give pilots a direct feel for how the aircraft handles aerodynamic forces as it flies, they are also cumbersome to operate, require constant supervision, are heavy and bulky, and need regular maintenance.

The electronic FWB system is substantially smaller and more lightweight than mechanical controls. This allowed for more creative freedom in aircraft design and increased fuel efficiency, especially when using older platforms.

Additionally, most FWB systems feature triple or quad redundant backups to prevent critical failures in flight.

The F-15EX is built with the newest technology and features in mind, thanks to its Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture.

In addition to replacing the older F-15C/D models, the F-15EX is intended to team up with F-35 or F-22 stealth fighters on some missions.

Due to the Eagle 2’s ability to carry a much larger weapons load than fifth-generation fighters, it is being considered to carry future hypersonic missiles that would not fit in the weapons bay of a fifth-generation fighter.

As reported by EurAsian Times, the F-15EX will be the first USAF aircraft equipped with the new hypersonic attack cruise missile (HACM).

The F-15EX can reach a top speed of Mach 2.5 and has a combat range of over 1,700 kilometers, whereas the F-35 can only manage a range of around 1,000 kilometers. Therefore, it is the best tactical aircraft for transporting hypersonic missiles over long distances.

Hypersonic weapons will become increasingly important as threats from neighboring countries such as Russia and China increase.

Only China and Russia have functional hypersonic weapons at the moment, with Russia using its Kinzhal hypersonic missile in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Instead, America is rapidly closing the gap.

In addition, as was fully addressed in a recent article by the EurAsian Times, the F-15EX may be the first aircraft in the USAF fleet to carry laser weapons.

The USAF received its first high-energy laser weapon in July 2022, named LANCE (or Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments), from Lockheed Martin.

LANCE is a pod weapon that can be fitted to an aircraft, with the primary laser weapon supplied by Lockheed Martin and the LANCE carrying pod manufactured by Boeing. Also, the beam control system that directs the laser toward its target is supplied by Northrop Grumman.

It’s unclear how much power this new laser weapon will produce, but reports indicate it probably won’t exceed 100 kilowatts.

It is also not known which aircraft will test or deploy this laser weapon pod. However, Boeing had tested a pod-shaped pre-prototype on a USAF F-15 fighter. At the same time, Lockheed Martin had also previously shown the pod carried by an F-16 fighter in its concept art.

The Eagle-II is the fastest (Mach 2.5) and best-equipped combat aircraft in the world (13.6-ton payload), with a strike range of 2,222 kilometers. It will also incorporate some of the most advanced weaponry.

“The F-15EX is an incredible addition to the USAF inventory. This test, executed by a world-class team of test pilots, engineers, and experts, demonstrates once again that the F-15EX will be ready if and when our adversaries challenge our nation’s interests,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Wee, commander of the OFP CTF, following the completion of the recent test in November 2022.