US: F-15EX fighter jets to replace Strike Eagles? It is really possible
WARSAW, (BM) – According to the documents of the US Department of Defense related to the award of a contract for the purchase of Boeing F-15EX machines for the US Air Force in place of the heavily used F-15C / D Eagle, the program may also cover the F-15E Strike Eagle, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24.
The US Air Force has 218 of these multi-purpose machines in service, which are on average a decade younger than their fighter version. Their replacement by the F-15EX will be much cheaper and faster than the retooling of squadrons into the F-35.
Air Force Magazine, referring to the documents “F-15EX Justification and Approval (J&A) for Other Than Full and Open Competition” developed in 2018, but published in January 2020, informs that there was a suggestion to replace not only F-15C / D, but also the multi-purpose F-15E, which are used to attack ground targets and carry a wide range of guided weapons.
The heavily redacted version of the document, available to the public, says there is initial interest in the possible replacement of the Strike Eagles with the F-15EX Advance Eagle, but “a decision has not been made, although it remains an option.” Air Force Magazine received the same response from a US air force spokesman.
The question is open, but not urgent, as the F-15E entered service about a decade later than the fighter version and their consumption is not that high. However, the concept itself is not new and results directly from the decision of the first decade of the 21st century, including the suspension of the production of the F-22A Raptor aircraft.
According to the USAF’s plans in the 1990s, they were to replace the F-15C / D and the F-117 as aircraft for precision ground targets, while the F-35 was anointed as the successor of the F-16 and A-10 above all. Interestingly, there was no successor planned for the relatively young F-15E at the time.
Meanwhile, in 2009, after producing less than half of the nearly 400 planned F-22s, their production was halted. This completely ruined the program of the F-15C / D’s successor as an air superiority fighter, but it opened up a perspective for the F-15EX. Today, Boeing can count on a maximum of 144 F-15EX planes to replace F-15C / D Eagle fighters, but this probably will not end deliveries to the USAF.
Analyzes show that to maintain the advantage of the USA, a mix of generation 5 machines with 4+ planes is necessary, which will carry most of the actions on their shoulders, while the F-35 and F-22 will be used to eliminate threats, suppress the enemy’s air defense and attack key goals.
Economic factors are not without significance here. The price of the F-15EX may be similar or even greater than that of the F-35, but the cost of an hour of flight will be significantly lower and will amount to around 27,000. USD. In the case of the F-35 it is about 35,000 USD, although it is planned to lower it to 25 thousand. USD in about 5 years.
Still, choosing the F-15EX has some significant advantages, such as the training process or the replacement of maintenance equipment. As for the time needed to switch from the F-15C / D to the F-15EX, the USAF estimates it to be around 6 months due to the high compatibility of both types. When switching to F-35, this period is estimated at 18 months for US Air Force units and approximately 36 months for US Air National Guard squadrons.
The same arguments as for the replacement of the F-15C / D will also arise in the context of the F-15E Strike Eagle, which plays a key role in the US Air Force’s operating system. Their replacement by the F-35 is rather unlikely due to costs, but also operational capabilities and needs. So it looks like the USAF will not stop purchasing the F-15EX on 144 machines.
Boeing, despite the fact that it lost the fight for 5th generation airplanes, seems to have found its way in the current situation by offering the F-15EX Advanced Eagle to the air force, and the US Navy F-18E / F Super Hornet Block III, which combine proven generation 4 airframes + with solutions designed for the 5th generation. Boeing’s position in unmanned programs, which are of increasing importance in airborne operations, is also strong
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