The USAF has awarded a more than US$22.9bn (A$32.7bn) contract to Boeing for the F-15EX Advanced Eagle fighter program.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract comprises an initial award of US$1.192bn (A$1.71bn) for the first eight aircraft, including support, and non-recurring engineering costs.
The USAF has a stated requirement for up to 144 F-15EXs – with 76 jets to be delivered to 2026 – and they are being acquired as a complementary capability to the F-35A. The first eight jets will be fitted with General Electric GE F110-129 engines for which a US101.3m (A$145m) contract was awarded on 30 June 2020, although the USAF plans to compete the engines for the remainder of the fleet.
The F-15EX builds on the advanced F-15QA Advanced Eagle that Boeing developed for Qatar. It features fly-by-wire controls, the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWS) electronic warfare system, an advanced cockpit with large screen display similar to that of the Block III Super Hornet, greater weapons capacity, and an open architecture mission system to allow for easier integration of new operational flight programs and weapons.
Although it is far from being a low-observable design, the F-15EX has a greater combat radius and weapons capacity than the F-35, and it will be able to be quickly absorbed into service to replace ageing F-15C/D Eagles that were delivered in the 1980s and are deemed to be not economical to upgrade.
“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” Boeing F-15EX program manager, Lori Schneider said in a statement. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the USAF.”
In a USAF statement, Gen Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command said, “The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our ageing F-15C/D fleets. The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line. When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years.”
The two-seat F-15EX may also form an ideal platform for integrated operations with unmanned combat vehicles in a future manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concept.