US Air Force and Boeing successfully bring serial model to production aviation technicians. An agreement was signed on the construction of promising Boeing F-15EX fighter-bombers. Work on the construction of the first batch of eight aircraft has already begun.
More than a year ago, it became known that the draft military budget for fiscal 2020 Expenses for the construction of the new F-15EX are foreseen. Then it was planned to order the first batch of eight aircraft worth approx. 1,1 billion dollars. In the future, new contracts were planned, for a total of 144 cars. These items of the military budget were approved and accepted for execution. The signing of the relevant contracts was expected in the near future.
On June 30, the Pentagon published information about a new contract with General Electric related to the construction of the F-15EX. The $ 101,3 million contract provides for the supply of an unnamed number of F110-GE-129 turbojet engines, control systems and spare parts, as well as the installation of products on aircraft and subsequent support. Implementation of this contract will continue until November 30, 2022.
On July 13, an official order appeared for the production of new aircraft. The contract value is $ 22,89 billion; the quantity and timing of equipment supplies have not been determined. So far we are talking only about the first batch of eight fighters, and larger batches will be ordered later, according to the results of current work.
Under the terms of the new contract, the first two F-15EXs should be transferred to the customer in the second quarter of FY 2021. - after January 1, 2021, the remaining six vehicles will be built and commissioned no later than the end of December 2023. It is reported that the equipment of the first batch will be sent to the Eglin air base, where it will undergo tests and other procedures necessary for commissioning.
It is curious that the construction of the first production F-15EX has already started. Together with a press release on the order, the Air Ministry published a photograph from the assembly shop. The aircraft with the number "20-0001" is basically formed, but so far does not have a number of systems and devices, and is also not painted. Boeing still has several months to complete the construction. The assembly of the second machine has also begun, but it has not yet been shown.
The reasons for the appearance of the F-15EX project are quite simple. In recent years, the US Air Force tactical aviation has faced a number of problems, and not all plans have been implemented. Because of this, a “temporary measure” was needed, which becomes the new F-15EX. It is expected that orders for such equipment will allow to close part of the needs of the Air Force in the medium and long term.
Currently, the US Air Force is facing the problem of obsolescence of the F-15C / D fighter fleet. More than 230 of these vehicles remain in service, but in the coming years they will have to be decommissioned. At one time, a 5-generation F-22 Raptor fighter was considered a full replacement for them, but its production volumes were insufficient. In recent years, managed to establish mass production of F-35 Lightning II fighters, but its pace does not meet the needs of the Air Force in the context of replacing old equipment.
The solution to all these problems (temporary and limited) should be the new F-15EX fighter. It belongs to the “4 ++” generation and is inferior to other techniques in a number of characteristics. Moreover, it is based on a well-developed platform and can be produced quickly and in the right quantities.
According to the Pentagon's current plans, 76 new-type aircraft will be acquired as part of the five-year Future Years Defense Program. In the second half of the twenties, production will continue, and due to this, the number of aircraft will reach 144.
With the help of the newly built F-15EXs, they will replace the cash F-15Cs that have exhausted their resources. A complete replacement of old equipment in a one-to-one ratio is not planned. Probably the reasons for this are financial or operational. It is argued that the development of new aircraft will be quite simple and will not take much time.
The latest serial production contract does not specify the exact number of F-15EX and the timing of their production. However, the peculiarities of the production of the first batch suggest that the release of 144 fighters will take several years and will continue until the end of the twenties or the beginning of the thirties. Starting from 2022-23 The Air Force will be able to receive at least 10-15 aircraft annually, which will allow for re-equipment within a reasonable time.
However, in the context of terms and combat qualities, there are some difficulties. So, openly talk about reducing the potential of the F-15EX in the distant future. According to current estimates, as early as 2028, such aircraft could not break through modern air defense and solve combat missions over enemy territory. They will be able to work only in areas with or without limited air defense, as well as on their own territory and near bases. More complex tasks will be assigned to another technique.
However, the F-15EX may get some features that are not available for 5th generation fighters. It is considered as a carrier of promising airborne hypersonic weapons. A fighter-bomber will be able to carry large and heavy ammunition that does not fit in the internal compartments of the F-22 or F-35.
The F-15EX project proposes the construction of a two-seat multipurpose fighter-bomber with a number of characteristic features and noticeable differences from previous aircraft of the family. The existing glider undergoes minor modifications and is saturated with modern equipment that ensures compliance with current customer requirements.
The key difference of the F-15EX is the use of the open OMS architecture (Open Mission Systems), which provides the ability to quickly introduce new technologies of various kinds. Cabin equipment, sighting and navigation system, remote control system, defense complex, etc. were updated.
According to the results of modernization, the aircraft retains its basic flight performance. The payload still reaches 10,4 tons. It is possible to carry bulky and heavy ammunition up to 6,7 m long and weighing more than 3 tons, such as new hypersonic missiles.
Success and failure
The Boeing F-15EX project has reached serial production, and this is considered a new reason for the pride of American aircraft manufacturers. In the near future, the first aircraft of this type will enter the troops, and then mass deliveries will begin with the replacement of obsolete equipment. Recent contracts allow the US Air Force to be optimistic about the future and expect modern aircraft.
However, not everything is so good and joyful. So, the reason for the appearance of the next F-15 modernization project was the problem of other equipment, including last 5 generation. The promising and highly effective F-15EX is just a temporary measure designed to address the unplanned needs of the Air Force. In addition, this aircraft will remain modern and efficient for only a few years - already in the late twenties its role will change.
Thus, a very interesting situation is emerging. Over the next few years, the U.S. Air Force will receive modern fighters with high performance, but with a different set of circumstances and in the absence of problems in other programs, they could do without the F-15EX - and without additional costs for their construction. It turns out that promising projects of the 5th generation again hit the defense budget.