The acceptance is another kilometre stone in USAF. The Force has switched from 5th generation back to 4th generation. The F-15EX is controversial aircraft as it lacks the low radar cross-section of the service’s F-35 stealth fighter. It also indicates a change of wind from Lockheed Martin to Boeing.
The Pentagon is set to buy the first of Boeing’s new fourth-gen plus F-15EX fighters. The new purchase will cost the government $1.1 billion for eight of the new aircraft, with more buys to come in later years.
The USAF justified its decision by pointing to the F-15EX’s lower operating costs and the ease with which units flying the F-15C/D can transition into the upgraded variant. The service also says it intends to field large, long-range hypersonic missiles on the jet.
The Air Force currently flies 235 ageing F-15C/Ds that were in line to either be decommissioned or upgraded. The USAF plans to acquire 144 aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of F-15C/D models. The service plans to operate the F-15EX into the 2040s.
Though the new fighter is a two-seat aircraft, the USAF plans to fly it with a single pilot. The back seat will remain empty. The F-15EX has fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit displays and advanced avionics systems. Such equipment includes the BAE Systems Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System. This electronic warfare system is also being installed on older F-15E models as an upgrade.
A second aircraft is scheduled to be delivered to Eglin by the end of April.
F-35s carry weapons in an internal bay to maintain their radar stealth profile. Each F-15EX, in contrast, can carry nearly 30,000 pounds of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The F-35 can only carry 5,700 pounds, according to F-35 manufacturer Lockheed-Martin.