The F-15EX’s Delivery To Portland ANGB As Seen By Pilots

F-15EX pilots
The new flagship of the 142nd Wing prepares to depart Boeing’s facilities. (Screencap from Boeing’s video below)

The 142nd Wing received its first two F-15EX Eagle II jets, beginning the replacement of the unit’s existing fleet of F-15Cs.

As we reported last month, the 142nd Wing at Portland Air National Guard Base received its first F-15EX Eagle II on Jun. 5, 2024, following by the second one on Jul. 2. Notably, the second aircraft delivered (EX-007), is the unit’s new flagship and has received a full color tail flash, while the EX-008 received a subdued variant.

The delivery of the first Eagle II to the Oregon ANG represents the first time a new weapon system is delivered to the Air National Guard before serving in the Air Force. So far, six F-15EXs have been delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, where they are supporting developmental and operational tests on the new aircraft, while Portland is receiving the first operational examples.

With EX-007 now in Portland, Boeing has now completed the delivery of the Lot 1B of the F-15EX’s production. Portland ANGB is expected to receive a total of 18 Eagle IIs in the following years, which will replace the F-15Cs of the 123rd Fighter Squadron.

The base is now expected to hold a formal unveiling ceremony on Jul. 12.

The first F-15EX’s delivery

At the commands of EX-007 during the delivery flight were Maj. Calvin “Knife” Conner and Maj. Brandon “Wiggles” Wigton. The Oregon Air National Guard released a story describing their point of view of the delivery, which has been described as a landmark event, for the entire base and the neighboring community of Portland.

Conner has accumulated over 1,500 hours in the F-15E Strike Eagle and then moved to the F-15C Eagle, flying 100 hours in it. Before joining the 142nd Wing, Conner flew 100 hours in the EX while serving under the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

On the morning of the EX’s debut flight into Portland, as the duo prepared to take off from Boeing’s airfield, Conner couldn’t help but feel a mix of excitement and apprehension, says the ANG’s story, given the significance of the event. In fact, as we mentioned, not only the 142nd Wing is the first operational unit to receive the Eagle II, it also received it even before the Active Duty Air Force, which traditionally would be the first to field a new aircraft.

The flight to Portland was smooth that morning, with the EX handling beautifully, a testament to its advanced design and capabilities. “EX 008 performed exactly as expected,” said Conner. “The F-15EX is a game-changer, it enhances our lethality and survivability while expanding our mission capabilities.”

As they approached Portland Air National Guard Base, Conner couldn’t help but notice how clear the day was and how beautiful Mount Hood looked in the distance, saying it was the perfect day for this momentous event. At approximately 12:30 pm, the F-15EX landed at its new home, where Conner and Wigton were greeted with cheers and applause by a crowd of excited spectators.

“It felt surreal,” said Conner, recalling how he felt as he disembarked the aircraft. “I’m just glad I could be a part of it.”

Insights from an evaluator and acceptance fighter pilot

Lt. Col. Matthew “Cain” Olde, an evaluator and acceptance fighter pilot in the F-15 Legacy and Advanced Eagles with over 2200 total hours in F-15E/EX/SA/QA, wrote an interesting commentary after the delivery of the first F-15EX, which he mentions has been unofficially christened “Phoenix”, to the Oregon ANG.

“The F-15EX Eagle II represents a significant advancement in fighter aviation, transcending mere platform replacement to offer unprecedented capabilities for delivering decisive effects on the battlefield,” he wrote. “By prioritizing a forward-thinking approach worthy of the Phoenix name, focused on delivering effects rather than fielding a platform, we will fully harness the potential of EX to enhance national security and ensure its successful integration into the Air National Guard, the United States Air Force, and broader military operations.”

An F-15EX Eagle II from the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 53rd Wing, takes flight out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 11, 2024, with U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. David Wolfe, command chief of Air Combat Command, and Maj. Scott Addy, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, F-15 division chief. The F-15EX is the first Air Force aircraft to be tested and fielded from beginning to end, through combined developmental and operational tests. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Lindsey Brewer)

Olde mentions the EX builds upon the legacy of the F-15E Strike Eagle, defining it as an “apex predator” capable of Mach 2.5, 9G+, 12x AMRAAMs while retaining extreme maneuverability and a single-ship load-out greater than a 4-ship of F-35s. In fact, the F-15EX has also been envisaged to act as a “bomb/missile truck” carrying a lot of long-range air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground standoff weapons, thanks to new outer wing hardpoints and new weapon racks.

However, Olde says we shouldn’t focus on the individual platform and its specific capabilities, but rather on delivering timely and relevant effects to the battlespace. In fact, he calls the F-15EX not a platform replacement, but an effect delivery method with an incredible cost-per-effect ratio due to the number of weapons it can employ on a single mission.

Olde then drives the case for the Weapons System Officers (WSO) on the F-15EX, defining them as a force multiplier. He mentions the role they played in the April 2024 counter-drone defense of Israel, with one of the squadron commanders saying “we could not have done what we did without the WSO.”

The task of managing multiple sensors, employing the radar, talking/listening on three radios, and keeping track of swarms of drones and cruise missiles, all while providing an organized and manageable picture for PATRIOT, NASAMS, or other ground-based air defenses, is an incredible amount for one person to manage in a tactical scenario, with a high chance of task saturation.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.