WASHINGTON — The F-15EX Eagle II took another step toward being able to carry more missiles than any other U.S. Air Force fighter.
Eglin Air Force Base said Wednesday that two of the newest versions of the Boeing-made, fourth-generation fighter fired air-to-air missiles from two new weapon stations in a Nov. 29 test flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
The statement described the test as a “major step” toward demonstrating the F-15EX can carry its planned capacity of 12 air-to-air missiles.
This would make the F-15EX able to carry more missiles than any other F-15, which have capacities of up to eight air-to-air missiles, Eglin said.
F-16 Fighting Falcons can also carry up to six air-to-air missiles, according to an Air Force fact sheet.
Another fact sheet said the F-22, when configured for air-to-air combat, can carry eight missiles total: six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinders.
The F-35A can now carry four missiles in its internal weapons bays, plus another two externally, for a total of six missiles. F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin said that total will increase to eight starting with lot 15 fighters, which will be able to carry another two missiles internally.
Eglin said the F-15EX’s test flights, conducted by pilots from the 96th Test Wing, were the first to show the weapons “could be fired effectively and safely” from the new weapon stations, stations 1 and 9. The four additional missile stations are located toward the wing tips of the F-15EX.
The pilots fired an AIM-120 and an AIM-9X at a target drone on separate passes over the Eglin Test and Training Complex’s water range. Maj. Jeremy Schnurbusch, a pilot attached to the 40th Flight Test Squadron, fired the AIM-9X missile, and Maj. Brett Hughes of the Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force fired the AIM-120.
“Having been a part of the Eglin F-15EX team from Day One, it’s exciting to see the progress made and new milestones achieved as we work to field the most combat-capable F-15EX,” Hughes said.
Eglin said that when initial testing of the F-15EX is finished, operational units that receive the fighter will be able to carry and use the full complement of a dozen missiles as soon as it is fielded.
“The F-15EX is an incredible addition to the USAF inventory,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Wee, commander of the test force. “This event, executed by a top-notch team of test pilots, engineers and experts proves yet again that the F-15EX will be ready if, and when, our adversaries challenge our nation’s interests.”
An F-15EX fired its first live missile — an AIM-120D — in a January 2022 test flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.