US F-15EX is a marvel with 70% parts commonality to F-15C/E

The US has chosen a top plane for air dominance—a craft many call a “modern marvel.” Meet the Boeing F-15EX Eagle II. It has advanced systems and a flexible design, ensuring it will stay useful for years. 

Boeing finalized delivery of two F-15EXs to the US Air Force
Photo credit: Boeing

Experts note that the F-15EX uses about 70% of the parts from earlier models, the F-15C and F-15E Strike Eagle. Why is this important? It mainly saves money. By reusing parts, there’s less need to create new ones, saving both time and money and making the program more cost-effective. 

Additionally, this approach makes the supply chain easier to manage. The logistics and supply networks for the F-15C and F-15E can be smoothly adapted for the F-15EX. Using shared parts also makes maintenance and training simpler. Crews familiar with the older models will find it easier to work on the F-15EX.

Boeing finalized delivery of two F-15EXs to the US Air Force
Photo credit: Boeing

Shared components also speed up deployment. Since many parts are already in production and have been proven effective, the F-15EX can become operational much faster than a completely new design. Furthermore, using interoperable components improves the fleet’s reliability and performance. When an issue is found in one variant, it can be quickly fixed across all models, enhancing overall reliability and performance. 

On the downside, the F-15EX faces financial challenges rather than technical or operational ones. The aircraft’s cost has been steadily increasing, as noted by various experts. While Boeing asserts that the fighter will be easier to build and quicker to deploy, potentially rivaling the number of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning IIs in service, the F-15EX may not be the bargain the Air Force anticipated. 

Harrison Kass shared with US media that the cost of the F-15EX has continuously climbed, even surpassing the F-35’s cost. Initially estimated at under $80 million per aircraft, the price has risen to $90 million and then to $97 million by fall 2023. Kass attributes this increase to inflation, workforce instability, and economic conditions in his commentary.

In the US, they called the F-15EX 'a giant mistake of the USAF'
Photo by Jerry McGrath

However, the F-15EX really stands out today. It was originally designed as an air superiority fighter, but the F-15 Eagle has evolved into an all-weather multirole strike fighter. Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh from the US Air National Guard called the latest version, the F-15EX, a “game changer” compared to the older F-15E it will replace. 

“We can add our operating system, integrate weapons and sensors rapidly, and reprogram without touching the base software. This is a game changer for modern warfare,” said Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh from the US Air National Guard. 

Boeing claims the EX can “shoot from a much farther range than any other fighter in the US Air Force.” While it isn’t as stealthy as the F-35, it uses new electronic warfare tools to be less detectable. Unlike the F-35, the F-15EX doesn’t sacrifice payload for stealth. 

F-15EX 'missile truck' can shoot down 6 fighters in one flight
Photo credit: USAF

Even though the F-15EX doesn’t have the stealth to enter heavily defended airspace directly, it is great at launching long-range weapons from a distance. It can carry almost any long-range weapon available today, including the JASSM-ER. 

The F-22 Raptor was supposed to replace the F-15, but its high cost led to its early cancellation after making fewer than 200 units. At the same time, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter had many delays, so the Air Force had to keep using the F-15. Ironically, the F-15 has lasted longer than the aircraft meant to replace it. 

Switching to the F-15EX is much easier compared to the new F-35. This is because the F-15EX shares over 70% of its parts with the F-15C and F-15E models. It can also use the same ground equipment, hangars, simulators, and other support gear as the older F-15s. This makes the switch to the F-15EX quicker and simpler for squadrons.

First operational USAF F-15EX Eagle II enters service in 2023
Photo credit: Boeing

Due to budget constraints, the Air Force has relied more on 4.5th-generation aircraft instead of switching entirely to 5th-generation planes. These 4.5th-generation aircraft have some unique benefits. 

Take the F-35, for example. It needs to carry its weapons inside to stay stealthy, which limits its payload capacity. If it carries weapons outside, it loses its stealth. In such cases, a non-stealthy aircraft like the F-15EX might be a better choice. 

Moreover, the F-15EX is expected to last much longer than the F-35 in terms of flight hours—around 20,000 compared to the F-35’s 8,000, according to various sources. 

Sukhoi failure in Asia - to be replaced by two dozen F-15EXs
Photo by Samuel King Jr.

While the F-15EX isn’t as stealthy or advanced as the F-35, it still serves important roles. For example, it can carry more weapons when stealth isn’t needed, supporting the F-35’s initial strike. Its ability to work with older modifications and improved combat capabilities make the F-15EX valuable for the U.S. and future users.

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