Military News

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By Samuel King Jr.

Eagles have landed: New F-15EXs arrive at Eglin

The Air Force’s two newest fighters, F-15EX Eagle IIs, known as EX3 and EX4, touched down at Eglin Dec. 20, 2023, just minutes from each other.

The new arrivals bring the Air Force’s total F-15EXs to four, all located at Eglin. The two aircraft belong to the 96th Test Wing (EX3) and 53rd Wing (EX4), who also own the initial two fighters. “The F-15EX has met every challenge we’ve thrown at it to date and the platform is on the cusp of being ready for the warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Wee, Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force commander. “The delivery of the new aircraft paves the way for not only the delivery of combat coded aircraft to the U.S. Air Force, but also the continued development of this incredible addition to the USAF inventory.”

The new Eagles bring features and capabilities to be tested that the original two jets didn’t have. The cockpit pressure monitor and warning system is a new addition to EX3 and EX4, as well as an ultra-high frequency antenna for satellite communications. The new Eagles also feature a forward fuselage redesigned specifically for the U.S. Air Force.

The F-15EX test platforms at Eglin will accelerate development of capabilities both for the platform itself, and other combat aircraft. “Our integrated test approach, which combines developmental and operational test, brings the future faster to the warfighter,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, 96th Test Wing commander. “This ensures the U.S. Air Force continues to provide deterrence and readiness for the high-end fight.”

The F-15EX program at Eglin ends this year with two new aircraft, but the combined test wings kept the two available jets in the air for a very busy 2023. In May, those two aircraft flew to Alaska and participated in and supported Northern Edge 2023. In June, the F-15EX executed advanced weapons integration missions to ensure the aircraft and various munitions flew and communicated with each other properly.

After the integration successes, the F-15EXs flew to Hill AFB, Utah, for Combat Hammer, where the aircraft successfully employed advanced air-to-ground weapons for the first time. These and the efforts over the last two years earned the combined test and evaluation team a glowing report from the Operational Test and Evaluation director.

The director’s report stated the F-15EX is operationally effective, suitable and survivable against threats likely to be encountered while performing its missions in threat environments. This report allows the program to move into a new testing phase. “I am tremendously proud of the team and their efforts to foster the F-15EX program,” said Wee. “The F-15EX is the most capable Eagle on the planet, and we are just getting started.”
The test wings are scheduled to receive two more F-15EX aircraft in the future.

Over $1.8 Million to ReinforceMilitary Communities

Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $1.8 million in awards to military communities through the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program and the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program. These programs provide grants to military communities to support infrastructure projects and economic growth to strengthen the resiliency of Florida’s military communities.

This round of funding is in addition to $6.1 million in Defense Infrastructure and Defense Reinvestment grants announced in 2023. Since 2019, Gov. DeSantis has awarded nearly $13.6 million in grants to military communities through these programs.

The Defense Infrastructure Grant Program supports local infrastructure projects deemed to have an impact on the military value of installations within the state. Projects funded under this program include transportation, utilities, housing, security, and projects that protect military installations from encroachment. Awards through the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program include locally:

• Walton County Economic Development Alliance ($830,961) – to improve the intersection at SR 20 and CR 83A West, which will vastly improve the safety, access and operational efficiency for employee access to Eglin Air Force Base.
• Bay County Board of County Commissioners ($371,350) – to begin construction on Phase II for a multi-use path on Magnolia Beach Road to allow for safer access between the new VA clinic, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Panama City, NSA Panama City RV Park and Naval Branch Health Clinic Panama City.

The Defense Reinvestment Grant Program supports community-based activities that protect existing military installations. These grants are awarded to economic development organizations that represent a local government with a military installation that could be adversely affected by federal actions. Visit the Office of Military and Defense at floridajobs.org.