And while Boeing is rubbing hands, Lockheed Martin expressed “grave concerns” that the deal might take cash away from the troubled F-35, which was already slashed from the previously planned 2,400 to around 1,700 jets, due to numerous cost overruns which are projected to exceed $1.5 trillion.
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.”
Despite pushback from lawmakers and earlier skepticism from top USAF officials, the first batch of eight F-15X Advanced Eagle aircraft could be proposed in the fiscal 2020 budget, due to be unveiled in August.
Reports indicate the USAF is planning to acquire as many as 80 F-15Xs by 2025.
According to Bloomberg, the USAF will propose buying the F-15X without reducing the fleet of 1,763 F-35s that it has long planned.
Due to its internal weapons bay, the F-35 can’t accommodate payloads which the F-15 can, as well as 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 air defense systems, as well as its sophisticated sensors and data-sharing capabilities.
In June, Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said that USAF was in need of more fighters and that it must replace aging F-15Cs while vowing that he’s “not backing an inch off of the F-35.”
The Pentagon plans on buying 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 original F-15Cs ended way back in the 1980s.
The upgraded Eagle (F-15X) is projected to carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles and is to be upgraded with up to date flight controls, new cockpit displays, as well as a new radar.
The Air Force 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 F-15.
Boeing has been trying to sell new versions of the F-15 to the Air Force and international customers for decades. Back in 2010, the company unveiled the F-15 Silent Eagle that executives claimed could better evade enemy detection, due to its superior frontal stealth characteristics. F-15 SE was to have a special coating and canted vertical tails. Initially, South Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Japan all showed interest, but eventually rejected the design in favor of the F-35. However, with new advancements in technology since then, it’s not impossible to see these countries try out the new F-15X after all. And this is what worries Lockheed Martin the most.