The US Air Force let out a shocker earlier this month as it decided on cutting down the number of F-15EX Eagle II aircraft that it intended to buy in the long term — from 144 to 80. However, there is a twist in the narrative. The F-15EX Eagle II could now become the first aircraft that would fire the United States’ hypersonic missile.
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown testifying before the House Armed Services Committee said this while revealing their plans for the F-15EX.
Instead of replacing numerous older F-15C/D Eagle fighters with the newer, more capable F-15EXs, the Air Force will replace the older F-15s with remotely piloted drones or nothing at all in case the drones weren’t feasible. The retirement of existing aircraft would lead to a glaring deficit of about 400 fighter jets in the USAF.
The silver lining is that the F-15EX, according to General Brown, will be the first aircraft in the Air Force to be certified with the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) as the fighter jet can carry substantially more armament than the modern F-35 fighter due to its payload capacity, The National Interest noted.
The process of certification of the F-15EX with the hypersonic attack cruise missile is likely to wrap up in the second half of this decade.
Due to its huge payload capacity and the HACM’s relatively big size, the F-15EX is an appropriate platform for the HACM bypassing the F-22 Raptors and the F-35 Lightning II.