USAF Considers F-15X Purchases

I don’t normally like sourcing the Washington Examiner (it’s just this side of the National Enquirer), but I thought this was an interesting article.

It seems that the Air Force is looking at the F-15X, the single-seater replacement for the F-15E to augment the F-22 and the JSF. The major advantage is the infrastructure that the Air Force already has to support the Eagle, and that the infrastructure has literally been there since the 70s. It is a known quantity, but highly upgraded, incorporating all of the advancements of the F-15K (the Korean Eagle) crammed into a single-seat airframe.

The big problem is where it can operate. With no low-observable technology, it is going to be restricted to places where the airspace is relatively uncontested. The current and future SAM technology being developed by the Russians and Chinese will ostensibly eat the F-15X for breakfast. The F-15C can’t even operate in the battlespace today without massive ECM support, it would be a sitting duck.

What do you guys think of the Air Force’s idea?

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What are the alternatives in the short term? The F22 production line could be restarted, but that would cost a ton of money, and even the F22 is getting older now. More F35’s maybe, but they are also very expensive per unit. A current gen F16 would have the same problems that the F15X would have.

I can see the sense in that, SEAD/DEAD/multirole is perfect for the F-35, air superiority is the F-22’s business but how many top of the range sensors and stealth do you really need when all aircraft are linked anyway? The F15 has the legs to bring a lot of firepower to bear in support of/teamed up with the new fighters and it’s great for posters too.

Should have bought stock in Boeing, they’re having a heck of a year. They’ve got contracts for:

  • the KC-46 tanker

  • the MQ-25 drone tanker for the Navy

  • The UH-1N replacment for the Navy

  • The T-X, the largest and most profitable deal since the JSF.

I grew up a General Dynamics/Lockheed fan for the longest time, having grown up literally down the street from the plant at Carswell, and I’ve always thought of Boeing being a bunch of spoilsports who sue when they lose a contract. But, they’ve been turning out a lot of winners lately. They beat the tar out of the competition for the T-X, they just made an amazing plane. The only thing they’ve made that I’m not a big fan of was the KC-46. I thought the Northrop/EADS design was better and had more advanced features than the -46, but we’ll see how it goes.

I cannot help but to apply my own immature filter to any military discussion. Planes and helicopters are purely toys to me–things to be mastered and enjoyed. I could care a wit about the actual tactical benefit of a platform. The F-35 is ugly and boring and only marginally preferable to sitting in a trailer with a joystick. This has been confirmed by two acquaintances who’ve flown them (although I didn’t need confirmation on the ‘ugly’ part). The F-15 is beautiful and a total joy to fly (confirmed by many). So to please my teeny-tiny little pilot brain, the F-15X sounds like a perfect addition to any flightline.


Last I heard, the Secretary of the USAF was vehemently opposed to this and wanted more F-35s, not F-15s. I see it as Boeing offering the jets for a very exceptional price that the USAF would be dumb not to take it.

Well, at the risk of using the horrible word “synergy” - wouldn’t the F-15X work well in concert with the low obervables that ostensibly would sanitize the area of the major surface to air threats (S-300/400 type]? I mean, the status of an air defense grid only survives up to the first minute of a war…and honestly, it seems like we have a capability that is many times over what our likely enemies show. I’m still amazed at all the Russian propaganda videos that have come out of the Syrian conflict that clearly show they are not very good at fielding precision guided munitions. Either that, or they are just dropping dumb bombs and they don’t seem particularly adept at that either. Maybe it is a budget thing and they just don’t want to expend the monies to fire off their good stuff.


Not trying to get too political here, but look at who’s running the Pentagon now.


The intent was for the F-15X to be replacing the existing F-15C/Ds being used in the homeland defense mission, which right now is mostly Air Guard. The argument is made that the mission doesn’t demand or require stealth capabilities, but does demand a quick response and long loiter times.

Being fair to Boeing, these decisions were made prior to the new SECDEF’s arrival.

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Yeah, Airbus didn’t want the tanker deal Boeing got anyway. They’re $4B in the red on it, and who knows when it will break even let alone turn a profit?
Boeing underbid to get the contract, but the Pentagon wisely made it fixed price so none of that cost-plus garbage to fleece us. Now it’s all on Boeing to get it done without losing their shirts. They literally paid for the market share.

The F-15X deal is funny to me because the F-22 finished production over a decade ago and we’re STILL building its predecessor. We’re building the successor (B-21) to the successor (B-2) to the successor (B-1) to the B-52…and all of them are still in service!

Of course the “super advanced” F-22 has the same sort of processors we were playing Falcon 4 on when it came out. We’re talking sub-1GHz Pentiums.

They could build an F-22B today that would blow away the F-22A changing only the stuff in the avionics bays.


Good point here. Most of the aircraft we’ve seen in Syria have been 70s and 80s-vintage aircraft, ostensibly upgraded with newer tech, making it the largest test-fire range in the world. I think the newest planes the Russians sent were the Su-34 and the Su-30.

And a lot of it didn’t work. For all the vaunted prowess of the SVP-24 guidance system, they were still dropping on hospitals and residential districts. Unless they were the targets, I don’t see it being a very good substitute for precision-guided weapons.

We started a thread on this a few weeks ago and my position on it was that I see no reason to not do this deal. The f15x would replace the older 2nd tier fighters and the f35 f22 would remain the first tier.

First tier stealth aircraft shoot in to a conflict zone. Sanitise the Sam and AA threat and make it safer for the less advanced fighters and attack aircraft to operate.
you simply cannot buy enough first tier fighters to make up for the losses incurred as the f15c/d fleet ages and retires and crashes. The F16 fleet is the same.

I think the combat zone of the future will have data linked 5th gen stealth aircraft acting FAR behind enemy lines directing 4.5 gen fighters onto targets.

A little rant on this topic since it’s a popular riff (“Hey, did you know the flight computer in the Saturn V / Shuttle / Strike Eagle is less powerful than your graphing calculator / cell phone / compy 486?!”)

Correct, it has less memory and clock speed, because the thing is a damn tank. Take the shuttle’s central computer - your iPhone can’t simultaneously manage several dozens of lossless high-rate, high-bandwidth data collection channels while not turning into slag after enduring 3 days of background radiation.


Those were custom CPUs (or even predated CPUs) designed for that task.

The F-22A literally has Pentiums in it. Radhard versions, maybe, but still Pentiums. As in the kind they stopped making generations ago (PC generations). Older planes had simpler systems and didn’t rely on COTS hardware like an Intel consumer product, but as the avionics got more complex the military contractors were outstripped by the consumer world. They had no choice but to use them or seriously limit the capabilities, to develop a military CPU themselves would cost…well whatever Intel or AMD spent making theirs, as a rule of thumb. Something they would never make back.

The point is the F-22A can run whatever a Pentium can run ok, but in today’s sensor fusion world the F-35’s systems can run rings around the 22. I’m sure the B-2 has even older stuff.

What were the big delays getting the 22 and 35 into service? The software. Not an engine thrust falloff, not a bad oil system, not anything the older planes dealt with, just lines of code. Millions of lines.

And as we all know, as programs get bigger, they get less efficient. They get more buggy. It’s not like defense coders are magically superior to commercial ones (in fact, I’d bet they get paid less and must have clearances, so are on average inferior as they’re pulling from a smaller pool). So there is no doubt the advances in commercial CPUs would be well used in these planes…but you can’t just pop in a new mobo and CPU like we can, probably need to redo the entire system, which means a whole new variant not just swap out an LRU.


That was my reality for 6 years and I guarantee you that it is 10-20x worse than you think.