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Fewer F-35s? Air Force Looks to Buy 80 F-15Xs Instead

July 11, 2019 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: F-15XF-35F-35 IIAmericaDefense SpendingU.S. Air Force

Fewer F-35s? Air Force Looks to Buy 80 F-15Xs Instead

A mistake?

Nevertheless as Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group of Fairfax, Virginia, said in an email to Bloomberg “The U.S. Air Force fighter budget is unlikely to grow by much, so the fear is that replacing the F-15 fleet, rather than upgrading the old F-15s, would take cash away from F-35 procurement.”

As we have reported, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) is reportedly requesting an upgraded version of the Boeing F-15 Eagle fighter jet in its 2020 budget, despite pushback from lawmakers and earlier skepticism from top USAF officials.

The first batch of eight F-15X Advanced Eagle aircraft (fewer than the expected 12 fighters) could be proposed in the fiscal 2020 budget that will be unveiled next month.

However the USAF is planning to acquire as many as 80 F-15Xs over a period of five years.

According to Bloomberg, the Air Force will propose buying the F-15X without reducing the fleet of 1,763 F-35s that it has long planned, the people said. The service would purchase 48 of the 84 F-35s that were called for last year in the Pentagon’s plan for 2020, with the remainder going to the Navy and Marines, according to program documents.

Nevertheless as Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group of Fairfax, Virginia, said in an email to Bloomberg “The U.S. Air Force fighter budget is unlikely to grow by much, so the fear is that replacing the F-15 fleet, rather than upgrading the old F-15s, would take cash away from F-35 procurement.”

With its internal weapons carriage, the F-35 probably can’t accommodate planned heavier weapons, such as hypersonic missiles that are now under development. On the other hand, the F-15X would lack the technological advances of the F-35, including its stealth profile to evade the most advanced Russian and Chinese air defense systems, as well as its sophisticated sensors and data-sharing capabilities.

Last month, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told that the Air Force needs more fighters and must replace aging F-15Cs, while vowing that he’s is “not backing an inch off of the F-35.”

As we have explained in December the Pentagon would like to buy the F-15Xs to replace aging F-15Cs in service with the Air National Guard which have become too expensive to overhaul. Production of the F-15Cs ended in the 1980s.

 

The F-15X will carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles and has modern flight controls, cockpit displays, and radar.

The USAF has not procured new F-15s since placing a 2001 order for five F-15E Strike Eagles, the two-seat fighter bomber variant of the mighty F-15.

 

Boeing has long tried to sell new versions of the Strike Eagle to the USAF and international customers. In 2010, the company pitched the Silent Eagle — an F-15 with special coating and canted vertical tails — that executives said could better evade enemy detection. In 2015, it pitched an upgrade to the F-15C — the aerial combat version — that would allow it to carry 16 air-to-air missiles.

This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2019.

Image: Wikimedia