After successfully fighting its way into the US Air Force F-16 and US Navy F-14 fleets with the F110 engine, GE set its sights on the next big opportunity: providing F110 power for the F-15.

A highly successful F-15/F110 flight test campaign in the late 1980s, along with a 1,900+ flight hour Field Service Evaluation in the mid-1990s, demonstrated the engine’s capability with the F-15. Despite that success and the F110’s ongoing achievements with US Air Force F-16s, the bid for US Air Force F-15s ultimately didn’t come to fruition.

But GE military business leaders remained persistent after watching the F-15 flight test campaign unfold, believing there was a promising future for the F-15/F110 pairing. That persistence paid off in 2002, when a remarkable run of international F-15 wins began.

The Air Force of the Republic of Korea (ROKAF) and GE announced in April of that year that the F110 would finally get its shot on the F-15K, Boeing’s F-15 variant for ROKAF.

“We are thrilled with the ROKAF engine selection,” said Russ Sparks, who at the time was vice president and general manager of GE’s military engines business. “It reflects the solid relationship between the ROKAF and [GE], and the long and successful history of our engines powering ROKAF aircraft.”

The same year the F110 powered the F-15K’s first flight (2005), the F-15/F110 combination found another taker—Singapore. The newly-designated F-15SG became one of the most advanced F-15s in the world, and it incorporated GE’s Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) hardware, taking the already formidable F110 to the next level with a 25 percent improvement in cost-per-flight-hour, a significant time on-wing increase, and elimination of special inspections—all improvements US Air Force F-16s were experiencing through the F110 SLEP.

The F-15SG is powered by the F110-GE-129 for the Republic of Singapore Air Force. (Photo credit: Boeing)

In 2007, the F110 had its third big win with the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) announcing it would re-engine its F-15S aircraft with the F110, marking the first time an F-15 operator had ever switched engine models. In 2012, the RSAF went on to become the largest F110 operator outside the US Air Force when it ordered 193 engines to power Boeing’s 84 advanced F-15SA aircraft. RSAF received its final F-15SA in December 2020.

Then, in late 2017, the government of Qatar opted for its own F-15 variant, the F-15QA, powered by the F110. Similar to the F-15SA, the F-15QA features the latest and greatest in F-15 technology, including a fly-by-wire flight control system. The F-15QA took its first flight in early 2020 and is expected to be delivered in 2021.

These international successes amount to F110 power for 86 percent of all F-15s delivered over the past 15 years, including 100 percent of the most advanced F-15s delivered in the past eight years.

Now, the F110 has come full circle with US Air Force F-15s. After finding success internationally, the F110 will power the new, fly-by-wire F-15EX Advanced Eagle – its fifth F-15 variant, which is slated to replace the oldest F-15s remaining in the Air Force fleet. Once fielded, the F110-powered F-15EX will finally fulfill the possibility GE invested in decades ago with this engine and airframe for the Air Force.

The F-15EX took its first flight from Lambert International Airport in St. Louis in early February.

In June 2020, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCM) awarded GE a Lot 1 contract to produce 19 F110-GE-129 engines, including installs and spares and modernized engine monitoring system computers for the F-15EX. The first engine shipset was delivered in September 2020.

It’s the only engine tested, integrated and certified for the fly-by-wire F-15EX. But the groundwork for this win actually began back in 2014, when GE began investing resources and made a long-term commitment to become qualified on the F-15EX. GE has significant experience and expertise in aircraft integration, which it accomplished with Boeing through software upgrades and version changes, technology upgrades, and enhancements in F110 performance and durability. The time and detailed coordination required to make this F110 integration effort a success gave the US Air Force a certified, off-the-shelf propulsion solution available to power its Advanced Eagle.

The F110’s variable exhaust nozzle is recognizable by its distinct “turkey feathers,” the petals that cover the outer portion of the nozzle.

 

The latest F-15s for Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and now, the US Air Force, are far from the original F-15 introduced to the US Air Force in the mid-1970s. In addition to a proven F110 engine backed by a continuous infusion of new technology, the F-15EX will offer improvements in reliability, sustainability, and maintainability, amounting to an advanced fighter poised for evolving mission demands.

“GE’s F110 production line is fully operational and ready to serve the F-15EX program in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said Shawn Warren, GE’s General Manager of Large Combat and Mobility Engines. “We’re proud to deliver these engines to Boeing and do our part to ensure the Air Force’s rapid fielding requirements are met to maintain fighter aircraft capacity.”

Learn more about the F110 engine here.

A Look at GE’s F110 Engine with Former Fighter Pilot Lt. Gen. (retired) Sam Angelella