Eglin Testers Load Five JASSMs onto an F-15E

The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, loaded five AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles onto an F-15E, more than doubling the Strike Eagle’s normal JASSM load.

The May 11 test, part of the Project Strike Rodeo at the base, originated from a discussion during a January 2021 conference working group, which focused on a scenario where the standoff missiles would be employed by a bomber escorted by fighters into a contested environment, according to a 53rd Wing release.

Participants in the group “hypothesized that a formation of fighters” could be used to fire the JASSM salvo, reducing the risk to bombers, according to the release. This would require increasing the capability of fighters to carry the large missiles, since the current maximum payload is two JASSMs.

“No one told us to do this,” said Lt. Col. Mike Benitez, the 53rd Wing director of staff, in the release. “We saw the need and the opportunity, so we executed. This infectious attitude drove every unit or office we coordinated with. Everyone wanted to see if we could do it, and no one ever pushed back and asked for a requirement or a formal higher headquarters tasking.”

The test required workarounds to the loading process. JASSMs are designed to be loaded from the base of shipping containers, which cannot fit under the F-15E. The 53rd Wing, the 96th Test Wing, and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center used Squadron Innovation Funds to develop a specialized tool to load the missiles and wrote new procedures for the process.

“This is a squadron innovation effort with operational and strategic implications,” Benitez said in the release. “Project Strike Rodeo is all about creating options for combatant commanders, which ultimately can be used to create multiple dilemmas for the adversary.” 

With a successful load test, follow-on flight testing would come next to make the increased capacity a reality for the F-15E fleet.

The test comes about two months after the wing also demonstrated another increase to the F-15E’s payload. In early March, the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron flew an F-15E with six Joint Direct Attack Munitions on a single side, increasing the number of bombs the Strike Eagle can carry to 15.