Believe it or not,the Pentagon’s new 2020 budget includes a request for eight F-15 Eagle fighters! A real testament to the fighter’s versatility nearly five decades after first its flight. The F-15 is still relevant on the modern battlefield, proving the value of continuously upgrading platforms with the latest technologies. The jet, which observers believed would die out after the introduction of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is embarking on an unlikely second career as a sidekick to the 5th-generation fighter.
An op-ed in FlightGlobal, “The F-15’s Unlikely Renaissance”, discusses how the fighter jet, which first flew in 1972, 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.
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 fulfill 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 (often referred to as the Stealth Eagle), 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.
In addition to already paid development costs, Flight Global identifies other reasons why the F-15X makes sense: The aircraft will be cheaper to operate per hour than the F-35. It will also simplify training: current F-15C, -D, and -E pilots will be able to easily transition to the F-15EX with a minimum of retraining. The F-15EX can also accommodate large, oversize weapons the F-35 cannot.