For months now, internet pundits and lawmakers alike have debated the logic behind the Pentagon-directed United States Air Force (USAF) initiative to procure new F-15s from Boeing. In an era of stealth fighters like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor, many people would argue that purchasing new “old” fourth-generation fighters is a step in the wrong direction.
Those in favor of the purchase, however, contend that the F-35 is still riddled with issues and exorbitantly expensive to operate, thus making the lower-cost F-15s the right answer for missions in uncontested air space. Which, it pays to note, is where most ongoing combat operations take place today.
In the battle over fighter jet perceptions, Lockheed Martin locked horns with the low-cost concept behind the F-15EX procurement from Boeing, and lawmakers with large portions of F-35 production in their respective states joined the fight. They’ve called on U.S. President Trump and other senior government officials to take the money earmarked for new F-15s and throw it into the F-35 pot to maximize fifth-generation fighter procurement.
However, the USAF responded to those calls by breaking its fighter procurement strategy into basic arithmetic: it requires more new fighters per year than it can afford in terms of F-35 production, so an alternative needed to be found.
I’m not backing an inch off of the F-35,’ USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said. ‘The F-35 buy that we’re on continues to remain on track. And I’m not interested in taking a nickel out of it when it comes to buying anything else in the fighter portfolio. If we had the money, those would be 72 F-35s. But we’ve gotta look at this from a cost/business case. An F-15 will never be an F-35. Never. But I need capacity.'”
While the more advanced F-35 is hands-down the superior fighter, the F-15EX is no slouch. Thanks to $5 billion worth of foreign tech investment from allies in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the new F-15s rolling off Boeing’s assembly lines offer substantial advancements over the F-15s currently residing in American hangars, which are 30 years old. The new F-15s also boast higher top speeds, operational ranges, and payload capacities when compared to stealthy F-35s, giving them numerous advantages when not operating in battle spaces with significant air defenses.
Most importantly, the F-15EX promises an astonishing 20,000 flight hour lifespan, all while offering operating costs that are approximately half that of an F-35, making the real cost savings associated with this program found throughout the term of the fighters, rather than at initial procurement.
Boeing gave its webpage a facelift to reflect the new F-15EX production line, including a number of references to the cost-savings associated with flying these fighters.
In support of the National Defense Strategy, the United States Air Force must purchase an additional 24 combat aircraft per year. F-15EX is the only way to rapidly and affordably meet the Air Force’s critical requirements,’ Boeing writes.
‘Boeing’s F-15EX is the most cost-effective, ready, advanced solution to meet U.S. Air Force capacity requirements and add capability to the fleet. Driven by Boeing’s active production line, the next-generation jet enables pilots and mechanics to transition in a matter of days as opposed to years while delivering unmatched total life cycle costs.'”