The U.S. Air Force has awarded Boeing a nearly $1.2 billion contract to build the first lot of eight F-15EX advanced fighter jets, the first two being built at the Boeing F-15 production facility in St. Louis for delivery next year.

The range, payload capacity and price of the fighter make it an attractive option for the Air Force to meet its capacity requirements while adding capability to the fighter fleet, according to Boeing. The F-15EX carries more weapons than any other fighter in its class and can launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 ft. long and weighing up to 7,000 lbs.

“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing F-15EX program manager.

To advance rapid technology insertion, the F-15 program serves as a pathfinder for the Department of Defense’s DevSecOps initiative, aimed at developing secure, flexible and agile software. An open mission systems architecture ensures it will remain viable for decades.

“F-15EX brings together benefits of digital engineering, open mission systems and agile software development to keep it affordable and upgradable for decades to come,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager.

The Air Force has announced an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract with a ceiling value of nearly $23 billion for the F-15EX, with as many as 144 aircraft envisioned.

Pilots and mechanics operating the F-15 anticipate moving to the F-15EX in a matter of days versus years.

The contract award to Boeing also covers support and one-time, upfront engineering costs.