The F-15SA is an extremely formidable multirole fighter—possibly the single best fourth generation fighter the United States has ever produced.
When the Boeing F-15A first flew in July 1972, the Eagle was the ultimate air superiority fighter. Fast, high-flying, agile and built around a massive APG-63 pulse-doppler radar, the Soviet Union had nothing that could match it.
Over time, McDonnell Douglas—the F-15’s original manufacturer before its merger with Boeing—adapted the airframe into a potent multirole fighter that eventually became the F-15E Strike Eagle.
While both the air superiority oriented F-15C and the strike-oriented F-15E will remain in service with the U.S. Air Force for decades to come, by far the most advanced current version of the Eagle has been ordered by Saudi Arabia.
But will that enough compete with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?
In a Q&A posted on the USAF website, Col. David Chace, the F-35 systems management office chief and lead for F-35 operational requirements at ACC, provided some insights about the activities carried out during the second simulated deployment to Mountain Home
According to him, F-15E Strike Eagles was unable to shoot down the F-35s in 8 dogfights during simulated deployment
The F-15SA is also equipped with Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAS-42 infrared search and track system. And all of that information from the radar, infrared search and track and the electronic warfare system are fused together—similar to the F-22 and F-35—into a coherent picture. That picture is displayed on large-format color displays that are similar to those found on the F-35—in both the front and rear cockpits. Both aviators are equipped with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System. Taken together, the F-15SA is an extremely formidable multirole fighter—possibly the single best fourth generation fighter the United States has ever produced.
But is that enough to compete with the F-35 on the open market place?
Longer-term, it looks like the F-35 will be the dominant player on with fighter market—at least in parts of the world aligned with the West. Stealth is a major selling point with the inevitable proliferation of advanced Russian and Chinese-built surface-to-air missile systems.
Further, the F-35 has the backing of the United States government—which is a huge trump card for the program. In the short-term, Boeing may have opportunities to sell the F-15 to wealthy customers who need a very capable long-range jet and who can afford the Eagle’s hefty price tag. Those customers are likely to be in the Middle East or Asia—nations that are not likely to be cleared to receive the F-35 in the near term.
But one also has to remember that buying a fighter is less about aircraft performance or even military requirements than pure simple geopolitics. Buying a jet means you as a military are tying yourself into a strategic alliance with another country and its hardware. For many nations, making sure they are able to tie seamlessly into the Pentagon’s forces is of paramount importance. So even if you buy American, unless it’s a variant operated by the U.S. military, you might end up with an expensive boutique fleet with a lot of expensive maintenance bills.