The F-15EX Eagle II Has Arrived In Portland

Oregon’s 142nd Wing is the first operational unit to get the F-15EX and is set to receive the second of 18 jets within weeks.

byJoseph Trevithick|
The Oregon Air National Guard has received its first F-15EX Eagle II fighter, marking the first delivery of one of these jets to an operational unit.
Oregon National Guard
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The Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Wing has gotten its first F-15EX Eagle II fighter. The wing is set to eventually receive a total of 18 F-15EXs as the first operational unit to operate the type.

The first of an initial pair of F-15EXs for the 142nd Wing, which has the serial number 20-0008 and is also known as EX8, touched down at Portland Air National Guard Base late yesterday. The base is collocated with Portland International Airport.

The Eagle II is set to replace the 142nd's existing F-15C/D Eagles.

F-15EX serial number 20-0008, or EX8, comes in to land at Portland Air National Guard Base on June 5, 2024. Oregon Air National Guard

"The EX has arrived in Portland! The novel aircraft landed at Portland Air National Guard Base this afternoon, and we are now the first operational unit in the entire Air Force to field it," a post on the 142nd Wing's official Facebook page reads. "We are immensely excited and proud to be able to serve the State of Oregon and protect the Pacific Northwest. We are honored that the United States Air Force has recognized that the 142nd Wing has what it takes to be the first to defend our nation with the F-15EX Eagle II."

The 142nd is set to take delivery of a second F-15EX, serial number 20-0007, or EX7, in the coming weeks, a Boeing representative told The War Zone today. The company, as well as the Oregon National Guard, has released pictures and videos of EX7, as well as EX8, at its factory in Berkley, Missouri ahead of delivery.

Both jets have "Redhawk" tail flashes, but EX7's is in full color while EX8's is in subdued gray. Redhawks is the nickname of the 142nd Wing's 123rd Fighter Squadron, to which the jets will be assigned. EX8's tails also bear a rose and the text "City of Roses," another name for Portland. The 142nd has a tradition of naming its individual jets after cities in the state.

Air National Guard personnel and Boeing employees pose in front of EX7 at the company's facility in Missouri on June 5, 2024. The jet's full-color Redhawks tail flash is visible. Oregon National Guard
A close-up of EX8's tails showing the subdued Redhawks flash and the "City of Roses" nickname. Oregon National Guard

EX7 and EX8 are the last jets in the U.S. Air Force's initial lot of eight F-15EXs, with the other six being test jets sent to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The service currently plans to purchase a total of 98 Eagle IIs, something we will come back to later.

The Oregon Air National Guard's 173rd Fighter Wing based at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, which has long been the Air Force's schoolhouse unit for the F-15C/D, had originally been set to get F-15EXs first. However, the Air Force changed course last year, announcing that the 173rd would convert to an F-35A Joint Strike Fighter training unit. The F-15EX training pipeline is now set to be blended with the one for the F-15E Strike Eagle at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.

EX8 at Boeing's facility in Missouri ahead of its delivery yesterday. Oregon National Guard

As it stands now, the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing and the Louisiana Air National Guard's 159th Fighter Wing, both of which currently fly F-15C/Ds, are each set to eventually operate a squadron of F-15EXs. Two additional squadrons worth of Eagle IIs are reportedly expected to be forward deployed at Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, where they will fill the gap left by the shuttering of a pair of F-15C/D units.

"The F-15EX will be used predominantly in defensive and offensive counter-air missions," according to Air Force budget documents. The jets will offer significantly expanded capabilities in that role over the F-15C/Ds they are set to replace.

The F-15EXs feature powerful AN/APG-82 active electronically scanned array radars, Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare suites, and glass cockpits with large area digital displays. The jets, which are each powered by a pair of 29,400-pound thrust class General Electric F110-GE-129 engines, also have an advanced fly-by-wire system that enables the use of two additional underwing weapon stations. Altogether, the two-seat Eagle II, which has an expected 20,000 flight hour service life, is the most advanced F-15 variant to ever enter production, as you can read more about here.

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"I have a new radar. A new digital backbone. I’ve got new engines. I’ve got a new electronic warfare suite," the pilot who flew EX8 to Portland, identified as Major Knife Conner, said, according to a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting. "I’ve got more pylons to put stuff (munitions) on. I’ve got beefed up landing gear, so I can take off and land at heavier weights."

The expectation is that a single pilot will typically fly the two-seat F-15EX in the air-to-air role, but the availability of the rear seat does leave room open for evolution in how the jets are crewed going forward. The War Zone has highlighted in the past how that second cockpit also makes the Eagle II well suited to taking on the role of an airborne controller for drones like the ones the Air Force is developing under its Collaborative Combat Aircraft program. A two-person crew could be valuable in other contexts, as well.

“The Air National Guard is going to fly the F-15EX as a single-seater for the most part, although you may have seen what the first EX unit – the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland – announced recently about training up to use new weapons," Rob Novotny, Boeing director of Fighters Business Development and a former Air Force brigadier general who flew F-15s, told The War Zone in a recent interview. “I believe the Weapons School at Nellis [Air Force Base, Nevada] is building the F-15EX syllabus right now as a two-seater operation with a WSO [Weapons Systems Officers] in the back... I think you'll eventually see some WSOs in the Guard units. I think having one or two WSOs in a formation of four F-15EXs could be very enhancing to the mission set.”

As highlighted in this picture of EX8 at Boeing's Missouri factory yesterday, a two-person crew flew the jet to Portland. Oregon National Guard

In January, the Oregon Air National Guard disclosed that members of the 142nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) were preparing for the arrival of the F-15EXs by training to load air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions onto the jets. This was the new weapons training Novnty was referring to in the interview. The Air Force and Boeing have long touted the F-15EX as a prime platform for carrying and employing outsized weapons and other stores.

"This airplane… has the potential to grow to be multi-role, and have air-to-ground capability as well," Air Force Col. Mike Kosderka, the 142nd Wing's commander, said yesterday per Oregon Public Broadcasting. "We don’t have that now. But that’s the place that we want to get to in the not-too-distant future."

At the same time, questions remain about whether the Air Force's current planned fleet of just 98 F-15EXs will allow the service to get the most out of these jets. The Air National Guard has made clear that it wants more Eagle IIs if it can get them.

When the Air Force's plans to acquire what was originally known just as the F-15X emerged in 2018, which The War Zone was first to report on in-depth, the goal had been to buy at least 144 of the jets. Moves are being made now in Congress that could see a re-increase in the final fleet size.

EX8 heading out for its new home. Oregon National Guard

A parallel debate over the future F-15E fleet is also emerging. The Air Force is looking to retire more than half of the Strike Eagles in its inventory in the coming years. This is despite the F-15Es being among the service's most in-demand tactical jets and having just again proved their worth by shooting down more than 70 Iranian drones heading toward Israel in April. Members of Congress are now also looking to block those divestments.

However the F-15EX's career with the Air Force might evolve in the future, an big step forward in getting the type into service has now occurred with the delivery of the first Eagle II to the 142nd Wing.

Contact the author: joe@twz.com

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