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    HomeMilitaryF-15EX Eagle II: The Formidable Non-Stealthy Fighter Defying 21st-Century Norms

    F-15EX Eagle II: The Formidable Non-Stealthy Fighter Defying 21st-Century Norms

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    220421-F-FD742-0808” by Joint Base San Antonio is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    In the realm of modern air combat, where stealth capabilities are often seen as the gold standard, the F-15EX Eagle II emerges as a defiant contender. Despite its $90 million price tag, this latest iteration of the renowned F-15 platform has been ushered into the U.S. Air Force sans the stealth technology that characterizes its fifth-generation counterparts. This decision, however, is not unanimously seen as a disadvantage.

    210512-F-HY271-0250” by Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The U.S. Air Force has procured the F-15EX for roles that do not necessarily demand stealth, such as airbase defense, patrolling no-fly zones, and deploying standoff weapons.

    210514-F-JG201-1103” by AirmanMagazine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Stealth might be the new norm, but it comes at a high operational cost, and not all missions justify this expense.

    OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO — First Lt. Charles Schuck fires an AIM-7 Sparrow medium range air-to-air missile from an F-15 Eagle here while supporting a Combat Archer air-to-air weapons system evaluation program mission. He and other Airmen of the 71st Fighter Squadron deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va., to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to support the program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons)

    The F-15EX’s mission set, focused on domestic defense and supplementing front-line stealth fighters, reflects a strategic choice rather than a deficit in capabilities.

    Why, then, does the Air Force invest in a non-stealth aircraft at a time when modern air defense systems pose a significant threat to non-stealthy jets? The rationale lies in the F-15EX’s sophisticated upgrades, including an AESA radar, IRST, EPAWSS systems, and an upgraded cockpit, which extend its service life to 20,000 hours.

    F-22 Raptor 015” by AirmanMagazine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Originally intended to compensate for the limited fleet of F-22s and delays in the F-35 program, the F-15EX serves as a complementary asset, ensuring that the Air Force maintains a robust air superiority capability.

    F-117 Nighthawks land at JBER for Northern Edge 23-1” by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The F-15EX is more than just a stop-gap solution. It represents a strategic layering of defense capabilities, with modernized avionics and formidable firepower.

    The F-15EX, the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft, arrives to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida March 11. The aircraft will be the first Air Force aircraft to be tested and fielded from beginning to end through combined developmental and operational tests. The 40th Flight Test Squadron and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron personnel are responsible for testing the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)

    Notably, the aircraft can boast of being the deadliest Eagle to date, thanks to an investment of approximately $5 billion from foreign partners in its development.

    KC-46A Pegasus (ARRIS14/18-46046) tanker with F-15EX in trail over Pasadena” by tropicostation is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    These enhancements have resulted in a jet that excels in air-to-air combat, as proven by its distinguished lineage and an impressive record of 104 victories without a single loss.

    Lt. Col. Richard “Tac” Turner, Commander, 40th Flight Test Squadron, and Lt. Col. Jacob “Duke” Lindaman, Commander, 85th Test & Evaluation Squadron, deliver the first F-15EX to its new home station, Eglin AFB, Florida, 11 March, 2021. The 40th FLTS will take possition of EX1 and the 85th TES will own EX2 upon its arrival, coming soon. Squadron aircrews and testers will work together to complete the combined developmental and operational testing simultaneously. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Raven)

    Moreover, the F-15EX’s advanced fly-by-wire control system allows for precision and performance at the edge of the aircraft’s capabilities, previously reserved for super-maneuverable thrust-vectoring fighters.

    210505-F-HY271-0160” by Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The jet’s pair of F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engines further accentuates its power, allowing it to perform aerobatic stunts that rival those of more advanced stealth jets.

    Los F-18 del Ala 15 parten hacia el Tiger Meet” by Ejército del Aire Ministerio de Defensa España is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Critics have pointed out the lack of stealth as the F-15EX’s “flaw,” but the Air Force’s investment in this fighter is a testament to its strategic value.

    Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II (BuNo 169601) (with VMFA-314 at Miramar NAS) and McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-15-MC Hornet (F/A-18A++) (BuNo 162442)” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The F-15EX may not be stealthy, but its cutting-edge technologies and firepower make it a force multiplier, capable of supporting stealth operations and defending the homeland against threats. As the Air Force plans to acquire more than 100 of these jets, primarily for Air National Guard units, the Eagle II is poised to secure its place as a key player in the U.S. military’s air defense strategy.

    F-16 Aerial Refueling [Image 15 of 28]” by DVIDSHUB is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    It’s clear that the F-15EX is not the fighter of the future; it is the fighter for the present, fully capable of holding its own alongside fifth-generation jets and within the ambit of the Next-Generation Air Dominance program.

    Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Air France Concorde, with Bell XV-15 TRRA Tilt Rotor test plane in foreground” by Chris Devers is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    As the Air Force integrates this powerful “bomb truck” into its fleet, the F-15EX Eagle II stands as a testament to the enduring value of versatility and raw power in an age dominated by stealth.

    Relevant articles:
    The F-15EX Eagle II Fighter Has One ‘Flaw’ That Can’t Ever Be Fixed, The National Interest
    Here’s why the F-15EX is the deadliest Eagle to date, Sandboxx
    Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle: How the F-15EX Was Born?, The National Interest

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