The F-15EX will compete with Sweden’s Saab Gripen and France’s Dassault Rafale among others for the IAF’s plan to replace its Soviet-era fleet with 114 new multi-role aircraft.
Discussions on the F-15EX had taken place earlier between the two governments, Ankur Kanaglekar, director, India Fighters Lead, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, told reporters.
“Now that we have the marketing licence it allows us to talk to the Indian Air Force directly about the capability of the fighter. We have started doing that in a small way,” he said, adding conversations were expected to gather pace during the Aero India show this week.
The Indian military bought over $20 billion worth of weapons in the last 15 years because of the close defence ties that India has built with the US.
Lockheed Martin is also pitching its F-21 fighter to the IAF, offering to build the plane in the country to win the deal estimated to be worth more than $18 billion.
As reported by Air Force Magazine, this year, two Boeing F-15EXs will arrive at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Fla., for testing. These F-15s are not just the most tricked-out, advanced Eagles ever built, and the first factory-fresh F-15s acquired by the US Air Force (USAF) since 2004, but they’re also the lead aircraft in a planned fleet of up to 200 F-15EX fighters to be added over the next 15 years.
The F-15EX comes with nearly all the bells and whistles Eagle drivers have ever wished for: fly-by-wire flight controls, two new weapon stations, a new electronic warfare suite, advanced radar, a hyper-fast computer, conformal fuel tanks, and a strengthened structure.
The USAF is embracing the F-15EX as a means to shore up its fighter force, facing the hard reality that it just doesn’t have enough iron to go around. The service received only 186 F-22s and it never got the 381 Raptors it planned for to replace its F-15C/Ds and carry the air superiority mission through 2040. The USAF had to retain more than 200 of the youngest or lowest-time F-15Cs well beyond their planned service lives to meet global force requirements.
Eleven years later, those F-15C/Ds are so worn down that the USAF officials say it’s no longer cost-effective to fix them. To remain safe, they require constant and costly inspections to ensure fatigued structural elements are still viable.
According to Boeing test pilots the F-15 will reach the edge of the performance envelope faster than the F-15C/D and E models although it will fly very much like the older aircraft. Even though the pilots will have to adapt to the EX’s new “glass cockpit” displays, which replace the 1980s-era steam gauges in the C/D and E models, transitioning from USAF’s old Eagles to the new should be easy, they added.
The F-15EX will simply fall in on the mission of the F-15C/D but service officials are working to figure out how to “shape” the future force. However in the 2030s, as the Strike Eagle comes to the end of its service life the EX could shift to more of the E model’s ground-attack mission, one senior official said. The USAF has officially said it intends to fly the aircraft with a single pilot although the EX will feature two cockpit positions.
Photo credit: Boeing