Debate continues to rage among pundits and internet warriors alike about the value (or lack thereof) in the Air Force ordering 80 brand new F-15X air frames in the coming years. Some contend that the billions of dollars being spent on these new “old” aircraft would be better invested by expanding orders of the more technologically advanced F-35. Those in the F-15X camp point out that F-15s are expected to remain a part of the Air Force’s military strategy for years to come, and claim that, despite lacking in stealth and data fusion technology, the F-15 still has some tricks up its sleeve that the F-35 lacks.

Despite a laundry list of ongoing issues with the F-35, including ongoing concerns about the Air Force variant’s close air support gun and only 60 percent of delivered jets actually being able to fly, the F-35 is the future of American air power. With more than a thousand F-35s on order and early reports indicating that the F-35 once again dominated Red Flag dog fighting exercises against other American fighters earlier this year, it’s safe to say that even a troubled fifth-generation platform offers a significant advantage over capable fourth-generation fighters like the F-15, especially compared to America’s existing fleet of F-15Cs and Ds—the youngest of which is more than 33 years old.

However, the F-15X would reportedly boast significantly lower operating costs when compared to the F-35 or even America’s existing F-15s. It also has a much higher top speed than the F-35, and can carry more weapons, including forthcoming hypersonic missiles the F-35 won’t be able to carry without compromising its stealth profile. The fact that F-15Xs could be purchased at a set price of $50 to $75 million each ruffles even more feathers, especially when you consider that F-35 unit prices are expected to drop to $80 million each within the next few years.

But the truth of the matter is, comparing the F-15X to the F-35 is a fool’s errand; they have different operational obligations and the U.S. isn’t choosing between the F-15X and the F-35 (in fact, both Pentagon and Lockheed Martin officials have stated plainly that F-35 orders are not being affected by F-15X purchases). The real debate should be between the F-15X and America’s existing stable of F-15s.