On April 14, Boeing announced the successful first flight of the F-15QA Advanced Eagle. The F-15QA took off from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis with a vertical “viking takeoff” before proceeding with its 90 minute flight, which tested the various capabilities and systems of the jet. Following the successful conclusion of the test flight, the F-15QA landed back at Lambert International Airport.
The F-15QA is an advanced derivative of the Saudi F-15SA. Like the F-15SA, it features a fully digital cockpit and a fly-by-wire flight control system that allows for two additional wing hardpoints. Its enhancements over the SA include a redesigned cockpit featuring large area touchscreen displays and a new low-profile heads up display. The wings of the F-15QA have been redesigned as well, with Boeing claiming that advanced manufacturing techniques now allow for a stronger internal structure that does not compromise the aerodynamics of the wing.
In a Boeing press statement, the commander of the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s F-15 Wing, Colonel Ahmed Al Mansoori, commented on the successful test flight:
We are very proud of this accomplishment and looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this program.
This successful first flight is an important milestone that brings our squadrons one step closer to flying this incredible aircraft over the skies of Qatar.
Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager, commented on the successful flight as well:
This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload.
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.
The QEAF has ordered 36 F-15QAs, with Boeing being awarded a $6.2 billion contract by the Department of Defense for their manufacture in 2017. Deliveries of F-15QAs to Qatar are expected to begin in 2021. A domestic version of the F-15QA, the F-15EX, is now a US Air Force program of record, with the USAF announcing in January its intent to award a contract for eight F-15EXs.