The Oregon Air National Guard has been chosen to be first to receive the Boeing F-15EX in 2022.
Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base near Klamath Falls in southern Oregon will host the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) first formal training missions, the service said on 14 August. A unit at Portland Air National Guard Base, in northern Oregon, will become the first operational F-15EX squadron in 2023.
The USAF is buying the F-15EX to replace its ageing fleet of F-15C Eagles, which are on track to exceed recommended service life limits by the mid-2020s. The service is also replacing its F-15C fleet with Lockheed Martin F-35As.
F-15Cs, as well as the two-seat D-variant, that operate at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport in Massachusetts, Fresno Yosemite International airport in California and NAS Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Louisiana could be replaced with either the F-15EX or F-35A, says the USAF.
The service is also considering basing F-35As at NAS Lemoore in California, it adds.
“The air force will now conduct on-the-ground site surveys at each of these locations to assess operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure and manpower, and costs before deciding which aircraft will replace the F-15C mission,” says the service. “The air force will complete the required environmental impact analysis process before making a final decision.”
Typically, Air National Guard aircraft are used to protect the US homeland and to serve as a reserve force for the USAF.
The USAF chose to buy the F-15EX – an upgraded version of its Cold War predecessors – instead of additional F-35As because the fourth-generation jet’s operating costs were much lower, making the aircraft more affordable over its lifetime.
In July, the service awarded Boeing a $1.2 billion contract to build a first lot of eight F-15EX aircraft. The initial order is the first production lot of what could be a $23 billion programme for Boeing. The USAF plans to buy at least 144 examples of the fighter and has the option to buy up to 200 aircraft.