F-15 Eagle Fighter Jet First flown in 1972 – back, when the Vietnam War was still raging the “Eagle”, had lately seemed too old, too last-century, to compete for sales against modern counterparts, notably the Lockheed Martin F-35.
Boeing warned on several occasions that its assembly line for the type was in danger of being wound down after completing production for international customers Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
But Nearly five decades after the first flight, the F-15 is still relevant on the modern battlefield, proving the value of continuously upgrading platforms with the latest technologies.
The F-15 is undergoing a second career fifty years later and could see continuous service with the U.S. Air Force for up to eighty years.
The Pentagon is requesting funding for eight F-15X fighters in 2020, with a total buy of 80 jets in five years. See Details: FY 2020 Budget: 8 F-15Xs For USAF And 22 F-5s For Navy
The proposal to acquire new-build examples represents an admission by the air force that the F-35A cannot do all that is required at a price-point it can afford, pointing to a per-hour operating cost of around $35,000.
That does not mean that the F-35A is a bad aircraft, as the service itself recognises. But while the F-15EX’s expected $80 million price tag is not so far below the Lightning II’s production target, it will also offer significant savings in spare parts and maintenance and will cut the time needed to convert pilots from operating the departing F-15C.
Besides, the F-15EX will also be able to carry weapons that the stealthy Lightning II cannot accommodate within its internal weapons bays, notably a future breed of hypersonic missiles.
As well as providing the USAF with much-needed additional mass, its F-15 revival could help to secure additional exports from customers unable – for reasons of price or politics – to acquire the F-35.
It turns out that the aircraft for the modern conflict might just be one developed almost half a century ago.
The F-15 was originally designed as an air superiority fighter, entering service with the U.S. Air Force in the late 1970s. Equipped with a powerful radar, enough horsepower to allow the jet to accelerate straight up and carry up to eight air to air missiles, the F-15 was designed to sweep the skies of enemy aircraft. A later version, the F-15E Strike Eagle (see top), was adapted to fulfil both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
The F-15E proved popular with U.S. allies even after the U.S. Air Force stopped buying them, with countries such as Israel, Singapore, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. These countries funded a series of upgrades to the jet that will now be integrated into the new Boeing F-15X that is part of the 2020 Air Force budget. The Air Force will likely use the jet as a missile-slinging partner for the stealthy, but less well-armed F-35.