An F-15EX fighter jet taxis to its parking spot at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Nov. 8, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jaima Fogg)

WASHINGTON — The first operational F-15EX fighter jet has officially been delivered to the US Air National Guard from manufacturer Boeing, and with the delivery of a second jet soon to follow, the beleaguered aerospace giant is poised to avert a schedule breach for the program.

The fighter landed in Portland on Wednesday, where it will now be operated by the Oregon Air National Guard’s 142nd Wing, according to posts from the wing on social media. The jet is recapitalizing the wing’s aging F-15C/D models that the Air Force is moving to retire

Wednesday’s delivery comes a little later than program officials hoped for, as the program was set back with roughly a year of delays due to manufacturing woes. Despite the slip, the Air Force previously maintained that the program was not at risk of a schedule breach as long as Boeing delivered six remaining aircraft to the service by the end of this month.

That batch of six fighters, known as the program’s lot 1B, consisted of four test aircraft and two operational fighters. The two operational fighters are dubbed EX7 and EX8, respectively. EX8 is the jet that touched down Wednesday, and EX7 is expected “in the next couple weeks and anticipated before July,” a Boeing spokesperson told Breaking Defense. 

Boeing posted the two jets receiving their “final touches” on social media with customized tail flashes for the 142nd Wing. The fighter is manufactured at Boeing’s facilities in St. Louis, Mo. 

Tails painted — all dressed up for delivery.#F15EX EX7 and EX8 get the final touches before they head to their new home with the @142ndWG, home to @OregonGuard‘s Redhawks.

— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) June 6, 2024

Dubbed Eagle II, the F-15EX is a modernized version of the legacy F-15, which incorporates upgrades like a new electronic warfare suite. Its “flyaway” pricetag for jets in the first lot worked out to roughly $80.5 million, though that number is expected to rise to approximately $90 million for the next lot of fighters, Breaking Defense previously reported

Shifting budget priorities have also left the Eagle II’s fleet size in flux: after originally planning to buy 144 copies of the fighter, the Air Force has subsequently shrunk its planned buy to 98. Some lawmakers, however, want to increase that number, with House authorizers recently pushing to fund procurement of more jets in their version of the fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act. Details of House appropriators’ legislation is expected to be unveiled shortly, though the committee did not indicate it would increase the F-15EX buy in a summary released this week

With the Air Force’s buy fluctuating at home, Boeing is looking abroad to boost sales of the F-15EX. Foreign buyers like Indonesia have already signed on. 

Keeping the F-15EX on track is vital for Boeing, which has struggled with both its defense and commercial sides in recent years. F-15 and F/A-18 production was also recently under threat due to the potential closure of a factory from supplier GKN Aerospace, though an agreement the two parties reached in April is expected to keep the facility humming under Boeing’s ownership.