The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported that production errors and quality issues with Boeing’s F-15EX Eagle II program have led to at least a six-month delay in the fighter’s delivery schedule, potentially jeopardizing critical deadlines.
Initially, Boeing planned to deliver the latest batch of F-15EX Eagle II fighters to the Air Force in December 2022. However, the GAO’s annual assessment of weapon systems, released Thursday, cited several production hiccups that postponed the delivery of the six fighters from lot 1B. The primary cause was attributed to quality concerns linked to a crucial component in the forward fuselage assembly, essential for flight safety.
The report noted that these quality issues were resolved by the time Boeing constructed the seventh and eighth F-15EXs. Additionally, Boeing mistakenly drilled windscreen installation holes on four F-15EXs due to a tool design error. This problem was identified before it could affect more planes, with plans to redrill the holes on impacted aircraft before the production of the second lot.
So far, Boeing has delivered only two test aircraft to the Air Force in the spring of 2021. Over two years later, the service is still awaiting the next batch of fighters. The F-15EX is an advanced version of the fourth-generation Eagle fighter, with improved avionics and enhanced electronic warfare capabilities.
However, these issues have caused a domino effect on the F-15EX program, leading to a two-month delay for each lot of two fighters and possibly further setbacks in the delivery schedule. Boeing and the federal Defense Contract Management Agency warned of potential delays.
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities also remain a significant risk for the F-15EX, as its design is based on F-15 versions sold to foreign militaries, which did not meet the Air Force’s cybersecurity requirements. The Air Force plans to purchase 104 F-15EXs and has requested funding to buy 24 fighters in the proposed fiscal 2024 budget. However, GAO warns that insufficient procurement funding for the F-15EX could result in a slight program curtailment.