SOFREP has been covering the activities in the Air Force over the past few months, and with the striking events surrounding F-35s, it seems that the US Air Force and other military branches have started looking for an alternative to this powerhouse—the F-15 EX Eagle II.

Earlier this year, the US Air Force’s newest/old fighter jet, the F-15EX, had undergone a series of test flights. It fired its first missile in February during an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program. The 40th Flight Test Squadron aircrew fired the missiles while pursuing a BQM-167 aerial target drone.

“During the flight, the F-15EX detected the drone using onboard sensors, acquired a weapons-quality track, and launched the missile at the target. After tracking the missile’s release and flight toward the BQM-167, the shot was determined a WSEP success, at which point the missile flight was terminated,” according to the release.

The success was “an end-to-end verification of the entire weapons system, which will pave the way for more complex missile shots in the future,” said Colton Myers, F-15EX test project manager.

During this testing, a large part of the Combat Archer also provided first-hand, live-fire experience, and the pilots are glad to finally be able to test this new beast.

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to fire the first weapon, but the bigger success is the verification of the F-15EX capability to live-fire a missile,” said test pilot Maj. Benjamin Naumann. “This shot is another important step towards fielding the aircraft to combat units.”

An air-to-air front view of two F-15E Eagle aircraft of the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron. (Source: The U.S. National Archives/getarchive)

The F-15EX is a powerful two-seater aircraft that can be flown by a single pilot. It has fly-by-wire features, advanced avionics, and digital cockpit displays. It has an increased payload capacity of 30,000 pounds of air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground munitions. Since it took a backseat to the F-35s, the military has only used the F-15EX for ground-attack missions in post-9/11 conflicts, according to reports.

Is the Air Force Starting to Pull F-35s to Invest More in F-15EXs?

F-15EX program manager for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate Col. Sean Dorey said having F-15EXs was a “big moment for the Air Force.”