After two years of experimental testing the U.S. Air Force has found that its new F-15EX fighter jet exceeded expectations in terms of number and tonnage of weapons carried.
In early 2021 the Air Force received the first eight F-15EX fighter-bombers it ordered in mid-2020 for $150 million each. This is an upgraded F-15E that will replace elderly F-15Es that will soon have to be retired or flown a lot less because of heavy use during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The F-15EX has been tested carrying and launching up to 12 air-to-air missiles. Previously the most missiles carried suspended from the wings was eight and six was more common. The F-15EX can carry up to 13.6 tons of weapons, more than any other F-15 model.
The F-15EX is cheaper to buy and operate than the F-35 and, for missions that do not depend a lot on stealth, the F-15EX is cheaper and more capable.
EX improvements enable the single-seat F-15EX to perform the same bomber functions as the two-seat F-15E which allows it to last for 20,000 flight hours at a cost of $29,000 per hour. This is one third the operational cost of the F-35, which costs about $100 million each.