Most advanced F-15 variant takes to the air for the first time
The most advanced version of the F-15 multi-role jet fighter has made its maiden flight. With Boeing Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese at the controls, the F-15QA being developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) took off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis on April 13 for a 90-minute flight.
The first flight of the latest variant of the venerable Cold War fighter aircraft involved executing a high-powered "Viking" vertical takeoff that sees it rapidly gain altitude by activating full afterburner to climb at an extremely high angle. This was followed by maneuvers in the test airspace where the aircraft generated nine Gs. During the flight, engineers monitored telemetry as the F-15QA's radar and avionics were put through their paces.
Though the F-15 first flew in the 1970s, Boeing says the F-15QA incorporates next-generation technologies, including fly-by-wire flight controls and a digital cockpit. In addition, there are modernized sensors, radar, and electronic warfare systems, and what is described as the world's fastest mission computer.
The F-15QA is being manufactured under a US$6.2 billion contract from the US Department of Defense to build 36 of the aircraft for the QEAF with the first scheduled to be delivered in 2021. In addition, Boeing will provide F-15QA aircrew and maintenance training.
Boeing as also gearing up to produce a domestic version of the F-15QA called the F-15EX. The aerospace company plans to build eight of the fighters, leading to a possible fleet of up to 144.
"This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload," says Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president, and F-15 program manager. "The advanced F-15QA not only offers game-changing capabilities but is also built using advanced manufacturing processes which make the jet more efficient to manufacture. In the field, the F-15 costs half the cost per flight hour of similar fighter aircraft and delivers far more payload at far greater ranges. That’s success for the warfighter."