Air Force’s newest fighter visits Wright-Patterson AFB

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Pilots operating an F-15EX, traveled to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Nov. 8-9, to meet with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s F-15EX Program team, and showcase the Air Force’s newest F-15 fighter jet.

“Being here at Wright-Patterson and seeing all of the work that goes on behind the scenes has been incredible,” said Maj. Brett Hughes, F-15 Assistant Test Director, who along with fellow pilot, Lt. Col. Christopher Wee, Director of Operations OFP CTF, Eglin, flew the F-15EX to Wright-Patt. “When I was out in the combat Air Force I didn’t know how planes were procured. Going to test pilot school and then transitioning to AFMC [Air Force Materiel Command], you get to see the acquisition background and really the whole team effort. It has been an eye opening experience – from the perspective of a fighter pilot now test pilot – seeing the overall process. It’s great work and they [F-15EX Program] have been doing a great job.”

Col. Elwood Waddell, F-15EX Program Manager and leader of the team to acquire, test, and field the new aircraft, said the visit was a great educational opportunity.

“We have a very large team here at Wright-Patt, working full-time day in and day out to produce this aircraft to make sure it gets to the field and is sustained,” Waddell said. “Unfortunately and partially due to the pandemic, [we] haven’t been able to see the aircraft [up close] or interact with the aircrew that ultimately fly them.  So events like this are critically important so that we get to see the aircraft, learn quite a bit about it, and learn from the aircrew directly.”

“It really is exciting to have the F-15EX here today,” added Ryan Pinsenschaum, the F-15EX Deputy Program Manager. “The Mighty Eagle [F-15EX] we have sitting behind us here is not just a refresh, it’s a total makeover of what the F-15 has been and continues to be for our nation. It is a tremendous asset that brings capability that no other aircraft can bring to the Air Force. I’m tremendously proud to be part of this program, and tremendously blessed to be part of the team that has made it [aircraft development and acquisition] happen.”

While various models of the F-15 have been around for approximately 45 years, the F-15EX was conceived in 2019, when Gen. David Goldfein, then Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, signed the F-15EX Rapid Fielding Requirement Document to address readiness issues with older F-15 models. The first EX was delivered to the Air Force in March 2021 and a second aircraft was delivered a month later.

Although it looks similar to other F-15 models, the EX has greater capability and has done well in operational testing events such as the Northern Edge 21 exercise in Alaska this year, where it was assessed on a range of things, to include its ability to operate with fourth and fifth-generation assets, and perform in a complex jamming environment.

Some of the enhancements include a high speed digital backbone that runs high speed fiber through the aircraft to all of the weapons stations, additional weapons carriage points for air-to-air missiles, an upgraded cockpit with a digital fly-by-wire flight control system, large area touch screen digital displays, and advanced avionics systems, such as the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System.
“There are a lot of advances packaged in the F-15EX,” said Tom Liberio, the F-15EX Program’s Chief Engineer. “It’s postured for the future to more seamlessly plug in new technology, and newer capabilities for the warfighter in a swifter fashion.”

Overall, the Air Force plans to acquire 144 F-15EXs from the Boeing Company.