Boeing says it can deliver the U.S. Air Force (USAF) at least two engineering, versions manufacturing and development (EMD) F-15EX fighters as early as 2020.
This is possible due to the fact the F-15EX has a lot of similarities with the F-15QA Advanced Eagle that is in production for Qatar. So there is a possibility that some aircraft destined for Qatar could be rerouted to the USAF. The EX can be seen as a modified version of the QA of which Qatar ordered 36 (with an option on another 36) in a USD 6,2 billion contract signed in 2017. According to Scramble Facebook News Magazine, Qatar expects six F-15QA’s will be delivered to its air force by March 2021. And these first deliveries follow the final deliveries of the last of 84 F-15SAs to Saudi Arabia by the end of 2019. It is also possible that Israel will buy additional Eagles, so the Eagle production line will be running for many years to come.
The USAF included USD 986 million in a draft 2020 budget for eight F-15EX aircraft. That procurement possibly makes a start for the replacement for aging F-15C/D Eagles.
Current F-15C/Ds are beyond their service life “and have SERIOUS structures risks, wire chafing issues, and obsolete parts,” the USAF said in March. The service added that readiness goals cannot be achieved because of the aging aircraft’s repairs, modernization efforts, and structural inspections.
The USAF is expected to request eighteen EX’s annually from fiscal years 2021 to 2024.
The Air Force eventually could buy up to 144 of the aircraft, with the buy continuing beyond the end of the FYDP. If the cost continues at the same rate, the new fleet would cost more than $14 billion.
The high-profile deal spikes the interest of many, as the F-15EX is bought while F-35 purchases are in full-swing. The EX is most probably cheaper in use, and since the USAF already has a full Eagle infrastructure, the EX is easy to incorporate in current squadron operations.
This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2019.