Nellis hosts first operational test mission for F-15EX

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The F-15EX Integrated Test & Evaluation 2021 Test Patch worn by Lt. Col Wes Turner during testing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Oct. 20, 2021. Turner will be conducting F-15EX Eagle II test and evaluation operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by William R. Lewis)

By Christie Vanover

57th Wing Public Affairs

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) —  

The F-15EX Eagle ll is undergoing its first-ever operational test mission paired with F-15Cs and F-15Es at Nellis Air Force Base Oct. 18-25.

“We’ve never done full, large-scale operational tests with the F-15EX, because it’s only been in the U.S. Air Force’s hands for six months,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Juhl, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center F-15 tester. “The fact that we’re going this fast in operational test is definitely owing to the chief of staff of the Air Force’s accelerate change or lose mentality.”

There are currently two F-15EXes in existence. The Air Force accepted delivery of them at Eglin AFB, Florida, in March and April 2021. The platform is anticipated to join the F-35 Lightning IIF-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II along with a sixth-generation fighter program as part of the four-plus-one concept intended to streamline the fleet.

At Nellis AFB, AFOTEC Detachment 6 is leading the initial operational test and evaluation of the F-15EX with units from Eglin and Nellis AFBs, the Oregon and Florida National Guard and contractors.

The plane has undergone a series of developmental tests to ensure the aircraft adheres to the required build specifications and safety standards. It has also conducted operational missions as part of exercise Northern Edge in Alaska.

“The main focus here is to provide the initial push for operational tests and evaluation to really evaluate the platform from an end-to-end perspective with the addition of a robust threat environment that we have here at Nellis. That way, when we write our initial test reports, we’re giving an accurate look to the combat Air Force and the Guard as to what the platform is capable of when it initially fields,” said Colton Myers, Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force F-15EX test project manager.

Maj. Kevin Hand, an F-15EX experimental and operations test pilot with the Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Test Center, is among a handful of pilots who will fly multiple day and night missions with defensive and offensive counter air while at Nellis AFB.

“The big thing we’re trying to take away is really showing the differences between the EX and the C model,” Hand said.

“A big improvement the EX has is that it’s a digital flight control system, so it’s a fly-by-wire aircraft, versus the traditional C model, which is a standard hydro mechanical aircraft completely controlled by the pilot, versus now a computer controlling the airplane,” he said.