JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – The F-15EX made its exercise debut at Northern Edge 21, flying 33 sorties and 89.8 hours with a team of six total force Air Force pilots at the controls.
The exercise, held May 3-14 in Alaska, was the optimal event to showcase the Air National Guard’s newest fighter aircraft, the Eagle II.
Northern Edge 21 provided U.S. forces an opportunity to test and train on concepts like agile combat employment, joint all-domain command and control, and all-domain operations center. The F-15EX seamlessly integrated with all F-15 variants, as well as the F-35, highlighting its capabilities to the entire joint force.
“It is imperative that the total force participate in these capstone exercises. We need to assess how our platforms perform and how we can integrate at a joint level,” said Lt. Col. Weston Turner, director of the F-15 Division at the Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC), and F-15EX test pilot. “For the Air National Guard specifically, it is important that we use our 80/20 model to show how we can be more efficient and how we can bring capabilities rapidly to the warfighter.”
The ANG uses the 80/20 model – an 80 percent solution at just 20 percent cost and time – to deliver capabilities to the warfighter.
Northern Edge 21 tested the expanded capabilities of the F-15EX, specifically the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS), which provides the aircraft with fully integrated radar warning, geolocation, situational awareness, and self-protection solutions. The F-15EX also has a series of upgrades compared to the older F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle models, including a digital cockpit, a more advanced ADCP-II mission computer, and fly-by-wire flight controls.
“We were able to get higher and faster than the F-15Cs due to the GE-129 motors,” Turner said, “The expanded capabilities with EPAWSS and enhanced avionics brought significantly increased situational awareness and capabilities to the exercise. Additionally, the increased load-out options improved the F-15EX’s lethality and mission flexibility.”
The F-15EX is the first aircraft entirely tested and fielded through combined developmental and operational tests. The goal of integrated testing is to ensure the Eagle II is delivered to the warfighter as soon as possible while certifying the aircraft meets test objectives.
Turner is the first F-15EX pilot in the Air National Guard and an initial cadre member for the Eagle II at the AATC. Now that Northern Edge 21 is complete, more AATC pilots will be trained to fly the aircraft.
“From the first two deliveries in March and April to one of the biggest exercises in the entire joint force, the expedited timeline and work of everyone involved showed how a program can be fast-tracked,” Turner said.
“The Air National Guard has a long and storied relationship with the F-15, going all the way back to 1985 when the very first Eagle arrived at the 159th Fighter Wing of the Louisiana Air National Guard,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, director of the Air National Guard.
“We’ve been flying the F-15 ever since, and Guard Airmen have flown these amazing aircraft both in the defense of the homeland and in every major international conflict since the first Gulf War in 1991. That is the battle-tested history of Guard F-15s – first to the fight, always ready, and always there, and I have the utmost confidence that the F-15EX is poised and ready to continue that legacy for our nation.”