Boeing successfully completed its first flight of the F-15QA fighter, the most advanced version of the jet ever manufactured. The Missouri-made aircraft took off and landed from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, and marks a milestone for the company as it begins to transition back to work following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF), the jet demonstrated its next-generation capabilities during its 90-minute mission.
“We are very proud of this accomplishment and looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this program,” said Col. Ahmed Al Mansoori, Commander, QEAF F-15 Wing. “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.”
The aircraft demonstrated its maneuverability during its vertical “Viking” takeoff and by pulling nine Gs, or nine times the force of earth’s gravity, in its subsequent maneuvering in the test airspace. Checks of systems such as avionics and radar were also successful.
“This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing Vice President and F-15 Program Manager. “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 U.S. Department of Defense awarded Boeing a $6.2 billion contract in 2017 to manufacture 36 F-15 fighter jets for the QEAF. Boeing will begin delivering the aircraft to the customer in 2021.
The F-15QA brings to its operators next-generation technologies such as fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit; modernized sensors, radar, and electronic warfare capabilities; and the world’s fastest mission computer. Increases in reliability, sustainability and maintainability allow defense operators to affordably remain ahead of current and evolving threats.
Today, more than 16,000 of Missouri’s highly trained workers build the F/A-18, EA-18, F-15 and T-7 Trainer fighter jets, along with the new unmanned MQ-25 refueling drone, at Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security facilities, along with a huge array of military ordinance.
But Missouri doesn’t just rest on its existing talent.
In 2007, after leaders at Boeing expressed concerns about the lack of skilled assembly technicians in the pipeline to replace the large numbers of baby boomers nearing retirement, the State of Missouri and St. Louis Community College teamed up to respond accordingly. St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group and the Emerson Center for Engineering and Manufacturing formed a joint venture with Boeing to develop and implement its customized, unique Pre-employment Training Program, creating an ongoing pool of skilled employment for the company and the region.
The award-winning program is based upon curriculum provided by Boeing, including hands-on performance demonstration projects. Each session of the program provides more than 400 hours of instruction in aircraft assembly techniques, work instructions, teamwork, interview skills and resume writing.
This talent isn’t specific to Boeing; Missouri is home to 100+ aerospace manufacturing and defense companies across the state. Boeing, Arnold Defense, GKN Aerospace, Honeywell, EaglePicher, LMI Aerospace, Seyer Industries, PAS Technologies, Leonardo DRS and more companies in Missouri are leading the world in building and maintaining world-class aerospace and defense products.
This cluster of aerospace companies makes Missouri the perfect location for suppliers and other businesses that support the aerospace and defense industry. New companies in the state have instant access to an existing supply chain that can only be found in Missouri.