“The F-15EX can actually have much more of an effect, relatively for example, for the cruise missiles you’re trying to defend against,” Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy pointed out.
US Air Force (USAF) Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told lawmakers that the service’s planned purchase of the F-15EX to replace aging fighters is needed to maintain the homeland defense mission as aging F-15Cs continue to see reliability issues.
As reported by Air Force Magazine, O’Shaughnessy told the House Armed Services Committee on Mar. 11, 2020 that newer F-15EXs will bring on new capability for the mission, such as improved range, the ability to carry more missiles, and improved radar capabilities.
“That one aircraft can actually have much more of an effect, relatively for example, for the cruise missiles you’re trying to defend against,” O’Shaughnessy pointed out.
The Mar. 9 intercept of two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft north of Alaska, showed the importance of that ‘long range’. Tankers in fact supported the intercepting aircraft, F-22s and Canadian CF-18s, used to intercept the target. The Tu-142s were reached after aircraft flew 750 miles from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
An aircraft with a longer range could, for example, reach a standoff bomber before it launch cruise missiles in a potential attack, he said.
“It really gives us flexibility, gives us an incredible increase in capability,” O’Shaughnessy said.
The Air Force’s fiscal 2021 budget request includes $1.6 billion to buy 12 F-15EXs, following the $1.1 billion for eight of the aircraft enacted in the 2020 budget. O’Shaughnessy said delaying the buy would mean maintaining the current fleet for F-15Cs longer and lead to more reliability issues.
“Our maintainers are phenomenal and keep them in operational status, but we are putting a stress on the system and so I would just continue to advocate for the soonest replacement,” he said.
As already reported, the USAF announced in February that it will sole-source two contracts, one for the F-15EX and the other for its F110 engines. The F-15EX will be the service first fourth-generation fighter program in more than 20 years.
Noteworthy the F-15EX is bought while F-35 purchases are in full-swing. The EX is most probably cheaper in use, and since the USAF already has a full Eagle infrastructure, the EX is easy to incorporate in current squadron operations.
Photo credit: Boeing