The US Air Force says that it successfully flew a new fly-by-wire version of the Boeing F-15 Strike Eagle on 20 February. The aircraft, designated the F-15SA, is being developed for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).

"The successful first flight of the F-15SA is a tremendous milestone for the programme and a testament to the relationship between the [USAF], Boeing and our RSAF partners," says Lt Gen C D Moore II, commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. "The F-15SA will add critical capability to the RSAF and enhance the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

 F-15SA first flight - US Air Force

US Air Force

In addition to fly-by wire controls, the F-15SA also gains a new digital electronic warfare suite, an infrared search and track system and a Raytheon APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array radar. The USAF says that both the aircraft's forward and aft cockpits feature advanced displays and joint helmet-mounted cueing systems. The new F-15 variant also has two additional wing weapons stations to boost its payload.

The USAF says the F-15SA flight test programme will consist of three instrumented jets flying from Boeing's facilities in St Louis, Missouri. Additional testing will take place at Palmdale, California.

The new Strike Eagle variant is the centerpiece of Saudi Arabia's F-15 fleet modernisation programme. It comprises the production of 84 new aircraft, plus upgrades to 68 of Riyadh's in-service F-15S fighters. With a value of $29.4 billion, the sale is the largest US defence export deal to date, the USAF says. Deliveries to Saudi Arabia are expected to begin in 2015 and should conclude by 2019.

Asked to provide additional details, Boeing officials referred all questions to the USAF. Service officials could not respond prior to publication.

Source: Flight International