ARLINGTON, Va. – Jan. 25 marked a historic milestone for the Air Force’s newest fighter as the F-15EX Eagle II executed its first live-fire weapons test over the Gulf of Mexico.
The test consisted of an F-15EX prototype firing an AIM-120D AMRAAM at a BQM-167 aerial target drone. After tracking the missile’s release and projected flight path, the shot was determined a success and the missile flight was terminated, according to an Air Combat Command press release.
The test mission’s success is due to the hard work and dedication of a Total Force team. However, personnel with the Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) are said to be the muscle behind reaching this milestone less than a year after receiving the prototype.
“AATC is known for moving quickly when it comes to research and testing of new innovation,” said AATC Commander Col. Jason R. Halvorsen. “We are highly motivated to bring the best technology to the warfighter, and that has influenced the unprecedented rate the F-15EX is reaching these major milestones.”
AATC’s stake in the success of the F-15EX is rooted in the Air National Guard being first in line to receive the state-of-the-art jet come fiscal year 2024.
As director of AATC’s F-15 Division and the first ANG F-15EX pilot, Lt. Col. Weston D. Turner believes AATC’s involvement is crucial to fast-tracking the program’s evolution.
“Active duty has a high turnover rate by nature, so a benefit of having AATC involved is longevity and expertise,” said Turner. “Longevity because our personnel can see the program through from idea to execution. Expertise because we can provide insight from each stage of development in order to more quickly reach operational status.”
Another advantage AATC brings is a breadth of experience with its predecessor aircraft, the F-15C/D.
“AATC has a direct line of communication to Air National Guard operators still working with F-15C/D models today,” said Turner. “We are always fielding for their feedback and leveraging their experience so that we can build the F-15EX to be the most combat-relevant aircraft possible.”
The combination of long-term investment and a mission-driven mindset makes AATC a key player in rapidly advancing development of the F-15EX.
“Capabilities of the F-15EX will be revolutionary, and AATC is at the tip of the spear in making sure this aircraft will meet the warfighter’s needs,” said Halversen. “This missile test just takes us one step closer to our end goal of getting this innovation out to the field.”