WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force and industry partners are ramping up efforts to add the newest electronic warfare gear into as many as 43 already-operational F-15E fighters.
The Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System will let the F-15E monitor, jam and deceive threats in highly contested environments, according to manufacturer BAE Systems. It uses sensors, electronic countermeasures and algorithms to provide integrated radar warning, geolocation, situational awareness and self-defense technology.
The system is a key feature of the F-15EX Eagle II fighters, the first of which were delivered in 2021. The Air Force, F-15 builder Boeing and EPAWSS maker BAE are expanding the system into operational F-15E fighters.
On Wednesday, BAE said it won a contract from Boeing to produce the second lot of EPAWSS for F-15Es and F-15EXs. The low-rate initial production contract, awarded in March 2021, was for $58 million. The most recent award is for about $293 million, making the total EPAWWS production contract value $351 million.
Under the contract, BAE will also provide spares and deliver units for test and development, the company said in a statement.
In July, Boeing began adding EPAWSS to the first operational F-15Es at its San Antonio, Texas facility, Air Force Materiel Command said in a Wednesday release. AFMC said Boeing had previously installed EPAWSS on eight developmental test F-15s, as well as new F-15EXs at its St. Louis, Missouri facility.
AFMC said that the EPAWSS program wanted to field the systems 16 months earlier than would occur under a normal acquisition, so it broke its Milestone C into two different decision points. That first decision point happened in December 2020, when EPAWSS entered the low-rate initial production phase while it was still continuing the developmental hardware qualification, software integration, and test activities, AFMC said.
Those activities continued in 2021 and 2022, including the F-15EX testing out the EPAWSS’ capabilities in three open air events and exercises and flying 1,521 hours in tests, AFMC said. Meanwhile, Boeing stood up its modification line in San Antonio.
In June, AFMC said, Andrew Hunter, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed off on the second decision point, launching the program’s deployment phase and cleared the way for Boeing to install EPAWSS hardware into as many as 43 of the Air Force’s roughly 218 F-15Es.
“EPAWSS production is growing as the Department of Defense signals the long-term importance of F-15s to the strategic fleet,” Bridget McDermott, EPAWSS LRIP program director at BAE. “These aircraft bring speed, maneuverability and payload to the fight, and now with EPAWSS, they can better detect and protect against modern threats.”
BAE also said it has recently delivered an updated software package for EPAWSS, showing it can refresh the system in the field and deliver new capabilities to counter threats as they emerge.
Last month, the Air Force said airmen had recently carried out the live-fire missile shots from the F-15EX in developmental and operational tests in Florida. In the Weapons System Evaluation Program conducted by the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, the F-15EX fired AIM-120D and AIM-120C3 missiles to verify that the fighter could shoot those missiles in combat.
“One of the main takeaways from these live fire shots is that the jet can clearly function as a long-range, standoff weapons system,” Capt. Max Denbin, the lead test engineer from the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, detachment 6, team that carried out the missile shots, said in the August release. “The F-15EX can shoot from a significantly increased range, farther than any other fighter in the U.S. Air Force arsenal, and provides the unique capability of holding 12 AMRAAMs [AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile] or other large ordnance.”
The next round of operational test missions of the F-15EX, including tests of EPAWSS capabilities, will take place at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada this fall.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.