US manufacturer Boeing is likely to export a considerable number of F-15 EX heavyweight fighter jets to countries such as Israel, India, and Qatar. The company had in July entered into a deal with the US Air Force, as part of which Boeing could build as many as more than 200 Boeing F-15 EX aircraft worth approximately $23 billion.
The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle twin-engine, all-weather, tactical fighter jet. It has the ability to perform a variety of roles like air superiority, interceptor, strategic bombing, ground attack, and deep penetration strikes against enemy infrastructure.
The cost-effective F-15EX has served as the answer to meeting US Air Force’s need for purchasing 72 combat aircraft every year and does so by advancing the force’s aerial capability due to its modern features.
Built by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), the 4+ generation fighter jet utilizes the frame of the classic F-15 and bears a resemblance to the Su-30 MKI in terms of its size.
According to Boeing, the fighter’s next-generation technologies enable it to have improved survivability in different environments.
“The contract (with the US Air Force) includes $1.2 billion for an initial eight aircraft in Lot 1, to be followed by a further 76 in the five-year Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). The USAF will purchase a projected minimum of 144 F-15EX jets, with the associated indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract having a ceiling of $22.89 billion that would cover a maximum of 200 new Eagles.” Jamie Hunter wrote in an article for The Drive.
Following the developments, Boeing’s Vice-President Prat Kumar had earlier confirmed that he has been pitching the advanced F-15 Strike Eagle variants to key US allies like Israel and India.
Kumar also stated his company was in the “process of responding to a request for information from Israel for up to 25 new Advanced F-15s, plus upgrades for 25 existing F-15I aircraft”.
Israel became the first nation to fly the F-15 Eagle fighters, with its Air Force using the fighters in combat and shooting down dozens of Syrian fighters in the 1980s without a single loss.
The country, which also possesses the US fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters in their ranks, have retained a mixed fleet of single-seat F-15As and Cs, two-seat F-15B and D fighters, and 25 custom-built F-15I Ra’am strike jets.
If a deal is reached between Boeing and Israel, the country could soon acquire fighters with more fuel-efficient engines, stronger wings, superior sensors, and greater weapons capacity.
New Delhi is also considered as a potential customer, with the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition (MMRCA) 2.0 looming in the air for the procurement of 144 multi-role combat aircraft.
According to Kumar, Boeing is looking to request a marketing license from the US government to start discussions with India, however, he was not sure whether the modern F-15EX is “in the sweet spot” for the requirement. India has been looking at different options ranging from Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Saab’s Gripens, and others.
However, with emerging threats from China and Pakistan, India needs a fighter that can fly for longer hours, is heavily equipped with weapons systems, and is big enough to carry substantial fuel tanks, so that it does not have to return to the airbase for refueling.
The F-15EX, which has a combat range of 1,100 miles as well as a speed of Mach 2.5, definitely fits the bill.
According to reports, Qatar, which has already advanced variants of the F-15 Eagles in its possession, had put forth a requirement for 72 F-15EX, which the Pentagon later accepted.
While Boeing is looking to fulfilling orders of all interested parties, their St. Louis F-15 production line has the capacity to build only 36 aircraft per year, Kumar Said.
“We have other things in the pipeline which will keep the pipeline going. So, it’s not an imminent threat of being starved off of orders quite yet…Many of the countries that have this platform have showed renewed interest,” he added.