- The Air Force’s two F-15EX Super Eagle fighters participated in the Northern Edge 21 wargame this month in Alaska.
- It “shot down some adversaries and was shot down itself” during the joint exercises.
- The service is still figuring out how to use the new, non-stealthy fighter in combat.
The U.S. Air Force’s first two F-15EX Super Eagle fighters flew to Alaska this month to participate in the Northern Edge 21 wargame—to mixed results.
During the joint multi-service exercise, the two planes flew 33 sorties (or dispatches), while paired up with a variety of active duty planes, including F-15C Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and F-22 Raptors.
There, the F-15EX “shot down some adversaries and was shot down itself,” according to Air Force magazine. Still, the results aren’t exactly shocking, considering the Air Force has yet to figure out a strategy for the new, non-stealthy fighters.
Lt. Col. John O’Rear of the 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron told Air Force the F-15EX “tallied some kills,” but also took some losses. O’Rear said the performance met expectations, as any simulated adversary worth practicing against would naturally be strong enough to inflict losses.
The F-15EX is the latest version of the F-15 Eagle series of fighters. After entering service in the late 1970s, the Eagle was a mainstay among the Air Force’s air superiority fighters for more than two decades. The Air Force originally used the F-15 to replace the F-22 Raptor, but it purchased fewer than 200 F-22s before the fighter program ended, forcing the service to retain hundreds of older F-15Cs.
The F-15EX, known as “Super Eagle,” is the latest iteration of the F-15. Although virtually identical from the outside, the jet features more advanced avionics (electronics used on aircraft) and radar.
The Super Eagle also features the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS), an electronic warfare system designed to automatically detect, classify, and then defeat airborne threats. EPAWSS is the first major upgrade to the F-15 series electronic warfare suite since the 1980s.
The F-15EX’s losses in Northern Edge 21 aren’t surprising. The jet’s main strengths are its radar and ability to carry a large weapons payload, including two dozen air-to-air missiles or hypersonic weapons. The Super Eagle’s weakness is a lack of built-in stealth (like the F-35 and F-22), making it easier for adversaries to detect.
The Air Force has discussed pairing the F-15EX with a stealth fighter and using the pair as a long-range, air-to-air missile launch platform—a tactic that could help keep it alive in combat. Paired with similar non-stealthy fighters, the Super Eagle may perform poorly.
It’s worth keeping an eye on the situation, as the Air Force plans to acquire 144 F-15EX fighters, with an option for up to 200.
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