“An F-15 will never be an F-35. Never. But I need capacity,” U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein
U.S. Air Force (USAF) Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has said that his service will only buy new F-15X fighters if funds are allocated.
Goldfein stressed that his service will not divert funds from the F-35A program to buy the warplanes made by Boeing.
As reported by Defense News, the FY2020 defense budget has been the focus of speculation for months, and the Pentagon has still not released a final topline figure.
Original planning had called for a $733 billion topline, which dwindled down to $700 billion after calls from President Donald Trump to slash federal spending and then ballooned up to $750 billion after the intervention of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
As recently as September 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said that the Air Force needed to prioritize buying fifth-generation aircraft.
“We are currently 80 percent fourth-gen aircraft and 20 percent fifth-generation aircraft,” she said at the time. “In any of the fights that we have been asked to plan for, more fifth-gen aircraft make a huge difference, and we think that getting to 50-50 means not buying new fourth-gen aircraft, it means continuing to increase the fifth generation.”
Instead, Goldfein said on Jan. 26, 2019 that the decision to possibly refresh the F-15 fleet comes down to the need for more fighters in service, regardless of generation.
“They complement each other,” he said. “They each make each other better.”
When asked if that meant compromising for quantity over quality, he said that would not be the case.
“We’ve got to refresh the F-15C fleet because I can’t afford to not have that capacity to do the job and the missions.” Goldfein explained. “That’s what this is all about. If we’re refreshing the F-15C fleet, as we’re building up the F-35 fleet, this is not about any kind of a trade.”
He added that Air Force needs to buy 72 fighters a year to get to the amount they need in the future — and to drive average aircraft age down from 28 years to 15 years. And while Goldfein might want all 72 to be fifth generation F-35s, budgetary concerns likely won’t let that happen.
“If we had the money, those would be 72 F-35s. But we’ve gotta look at this from a cost/business case.” he explained. “An F-15 will never be an F-35. Never. But I need capacity.”
As we have explained in December the Pentagon would like to buy the F-15Xs to replace aging F-15Cs in service with the Air National Guard which have become too expensive to overhaul. Production of the F-15Cs ended in the 1980s.
The F-15X will carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles and has modern flight controls, cockpit displays, and radar.
The USAF has not procured new F-15s since placing a 2001 order for five F-15E Strike Eagles, the two-seat fighter bomber variant of the mighty F-15.
Boeing has long tried to sell new versions of the Strike Eagle to the USAF and international customers. In 2010, the company pitched the Silent Eagle — an F-15 with special coating and canted vertical tails — that executives said could better evade enemy detection. In 2015, it pitched an upgrade to the F-15C — the aerial combat version — that would allow it to carry 16 air-to-air missiles.
Photo credit: Boeing
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