According to Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) the US Air Force (USAF) doesn’t have to buy all 144 Boeing F-15EX aircraft covered by July’s major contract award and can terminate the program simply by not ordering any more of the jets.
AFMC in fact pointed out that the nearly $23 billion contract awarded to Boeing is of the “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity” type and in response to a series of email queries from Air Force Magazine about whether USAF has any off ramps to buying 144 F-15EXs over the next 15 years—especially given that the service is also buying fifth-generation F-35s and will soon start buying the even more advanced Next-Generation Air Dominance airplane—it said USAF has not entered into an agreement to buy all the planes the contract could potentially cover. The $1.2 billion actually spent in the July 13 contract covers just the first eight test aircraft and development.
As told by an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center spokesman, the contract is “structured to accommodate annual delivery orders for each aircraft lot and required product support elements. Until the orders for each lot are awarded, the government has no financial liability for those aircraft” and supporting materiel.
The spokesman added that “the most straightforward way for the Air Force to reduce the total procurement quantity is simply to stop placing new delivery orders.”
If the service wanted to quit the contract in the middle of a delivery cycle, it would be at the government’s convenience, and Boeing could recover “allowable costs and reasonable profit on work performed under the contract.”
The deal provides up to $22.89 billion for F-15EX work, but the dollar figure was described by a USAF spokeswoman as an “upper limit.” The contract actually allows up to 200 airplanes to be bought, with deliveries through 2035.
As recently reported an F-15EX Justification and Approval (J&A) document, which was dated March 2018 but not released until mid-July, to coincide with the sole-source award to Boeing of the first F-15EX contract, revealed that the USAF could replace its fleet of F-15E fighter bombers with F-15EXs.
However, the document noted that while the program is “initially” intended to refresh the aging F-15C/D, a decision to similarly replace the F-15E Strike Eagle fleet with the EX “has not been made, but remains an option.”
A claim confirmed by the fact that a USAF spokesman said the Air Force’s position on the F-15E hasn’t changed. “That decision has not been made,” the spokesman said. “Air Force leadership will determine that. The F-15E will continue to perform its mission for the foreseeable future.”
The Air Force fields about 234 F-15C/D air superiority fighters, and 218 F-15Es strike aircraft that retain air-to-air combat capability.
Photo credit: Boeing
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