U.S.A.F. F-15EX Eagle II Jet Fires First Missile at Target Drone

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  • 07:14 AM, February 1, 2022
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U.S.A.F. F-15EX Eagle II Jet Fires First Missile at Target Drone
Eagle II fires first missile during live-fire event on 25 January 2022 @U.S.A.F.

The U.S. Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-15EX Eagle II, successfully fired an AIM-120D missile on January 25.

The 40th Flight Test Squadron aircrew and aircraft fired the weapon pursuing a BQM-167 aerial target drone as part of the 53rd Wing’s Combat Archer, an air-to-air weapons system evaluation program, or WSEP, the Air Force said in a release.

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.

The successful release marked the first weapon fired from the aircraft and another major milestone following more than six months of integrated developmental and operational flight testing for the shot.

“This 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 with the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force.

U.S.A.F. F-15EX Eagle II Jet Fires First Missile at Target Drone
Eagle II fires first missile during live-fire event on 25 January 2022 @U.S.A.F.

Not only was this the first F-15EX live fire, it was also the first missile shot for experimental test pilot Maj. Benjamin Naumann. A large part of Combat Archer is providing firsthand, live-fire experience. Many pilots perform their first live fire at WSEP.

“This shot is another important step towards fielding the aircraft to combat units,” Naumann said.

Along with weather, extra safety precautions and aircraft settings, test aircrew also have to account for and fly at specific test parameters when firing to ensure the appropriate data is collected for analysis.

The missile shot is one of many milestones for the F-15EX test team at Eglin Air Force Base. Only two months after arrival, the F-15EX deployed to Northern Edge in Alaska. The aircraft was pushed to its limits in the multiservice exercise and a significant amount of data was collected on the aircraft’s internal performance and how it performed with and against other aircraft.

Following the deployment, the F-15EX underwent developmental flight and ground testing to include survivability testing in various electromagnetic environments. This series of tests lead to the discovery of and resolution of issues identified in the F-15EX’s Suite 9 software system, leading to a more mature and stable product, according to Myers.

U.S.A.F. F-15EX Eagle II Jet Fires First Missile at Target Drone
Eagle II fires first missile during live-fire event on 25 January 2022 @U.S.A.F.

After the developmental testing, it was time for some operational testing in October. The aircraft deployed to Nellis AFB, Nevada for another exercise focused on the air-to-air dominance mantle it will inherit from the F-15C. This exercise proved that while the platform still needs more development, it is completely capable of fulfilling its expected air dominance role, according to Myers.

Myers said the advancement of the program and the F-15EXs successes over the past 10 months are due to the integrated testing efforts by the 96th Test Wing and 53rd WG.

The 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron is responsible for the air-to-air WSEP, a monthly event here.

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