“I Would Love To Have More F-15EXs,” Air Guard Boss Says

The Air National Guard’s top officer made it clear today during a roundtable with journalists at the Air Force Association’s Warfare Symposium what value he sees in the F-15EX Eagle II and that he wants more of them.

Our Howard Altman asked Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, the Director of the Air National Guard, specifically about the future role of the F-15EX and the possibility of procuring more beyond the reduced number of 104 currently planned.

“So the F-15EX initial fielding is to the National Guard … It is both a homeland defense platform, as well as a power projection platform. It is, I’m going to call it this way, the combat capability of an F-15EX is not an F 15E. It’s actually much better than F-15E. The open mission system architecture, a separate computer from the OFP, the operational flight program computer, so the one that runs it, and also fiber that goes out across it. So high-speed data, high speed fiber, open mission system architecture. We can put our own operating system on there. We can integrate weapons, sensors— anything that you can think of, we can integrate on that rapidly. And we can do rapid reprogramming on that system without ever touching the OFP. That is a game changer when you think about modern day warfare.”

Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, Director Air National Guard, greets 142nd Wing Airmen before take off on the KC-135 Stratotanker on Korat Air Base, Royal Kingdom of Thailand for Enduring Partners 2023, Sept. 19, 2023. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Yuki Klein)

“The other thing is it can take outsized weapons, so any long-range missiles, long-range weapons – JASSM-ERs – all those capabilities that are out there. With conformal fuel tanks, it has it has the ability to go long-ranges. So, longer ranges than even the F-15C… Those long-ranges allow us to deliver air superiority in a combat capable configuration over distances that we will see in future conflicts.”

An F-15EX Eagle II Fighter Jet assigned to the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base takes off for a mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Oct. 19, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by William R. Lewis)

All these capabilities prompt questions as to how a fleet of just 104 jets will be able to properly supply them to commanders. Asked by Howard Altman about the possibility of procuring more F-15EXs, the Lt. General’s enthusiasm for the idea was clear:

“I hope so. I mean, we have a capacity and a capability need out there. And so to get more and more fighter units recapitalized into the newer equipment, I would love to have more EXs.”

Considering the capped size of the F-35 line and delays in delivering fresh versions of the jet (you can read about that here), as well as soaring demand internationally, the F-15EX may not only be a smart buy, but necessary in order to more quickly replace aging fighters.

The F-15EX Eagle II fires an AIM-120D missile during a test mission near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla, Jan 25, 2022. The F-15EX can carry up to 12 AIM-120D missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Raven)

After a delay, Boeing is now delivering additional F-15EXs to the Air Force beyond the first two that arrived in 2021 and that have been undergoing extensive testing. Portland’s 142nd Fighter Wing is set to get the first operational F-15EXs. You can read all about the latest force structure plans for the type here.

The F-15EX also has growing prospects for export abroad, with Indonesia being the first international customer set to receive the type.

It will be interesting to see how the Air Force and the Air National Guard, both of which will now operate the F-15EX, will appreciate its capabilities once it hits the ramps of operational units in the near future.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.