As the US is offering F-15EX jets to the Indian Air Force, many experts have suggested that that the Boeing F-15EX jets could be better for the IAF since the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth jets have been plagued with numerous issues.
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The F-35 Lightning II fighter is considered the most advanced fighter in the world due to its advanced avionics, armament, stealth technology, and state-of-the-art features.
It’s already in service with nine countries, and more clients, including the UAE, are looking to procure the most sought-after flying machine.
However, the fact that the entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been plagued with problems is seen as a major drawback for the advanced fighter jet.
Factors such as engine troubles, premature part failures, problems in the software development, pilot blackouts, and even structural cracks have raised a big question mark on its performance and reputation.
The situation is such that even the US Air Force chief of staff, General Charles Q. Brown, has admitted finally that the $1-trillion project has failed to achieve the goals that were set for the stealthy fighter jets.
While emphasizing the need for an NGAD (Next Generation Air Dominance) fighter, a sixth-generation aircraft, and a new “5th-generation minus / 4.5th-generation aircraft”, Brown said that the only solution to dealing with F-35’s issues would be to fly it less often.
“I want to moderate how much we’re using those aircraft. You don’t drive your Ferrari to work every day, you only drive it on Sundays. This is our high end, we want to make sure we don’t use it all for the low-end fight… We don’t want to burn up capability now and wish we had it later,” said Brown.
According to reports, the US Air Force is already moving from the F-35 fighters to the ‘much more reliable’ F-15EX jets.
Developed by American aerospace giant Boeing, the F-15EX is the most advanced variant of the F-15 Eagle twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter jet.
The new fighter, which uses the frame of the classic F-15 and bears a resemblance to the Su-30 MKI in terms of its size, can fulfill a host of missions that include homeland and airbase defense, no-fly zone enforcement against limited or no air defense systems, and deploying standoff munitions.
It is reported that multiple partner nations of the US that had promised to buy the F-35s, are now shifting their orders to the F-15EX fighter jets and there is no reason to believe why India should not follow suit by purchasing the F-15EXs instead of the F-35s.
F-15EX Is Cheaper
The cost of flying the F-15EX fighter is estimated at $20,000 per hour, which is half the cost of flying the advanced F-35 fighter, which costs around $44,000 per hour.
While Lockheed had promised to cut down the costs to $25,000, it has not happened yet, making the F-15EXs a much better option for India.
F-15EX Offers Better Performance
The F-15EX can fulfill a variety of roles including air superiority, interceptor, deep penetration strikes against enemy infrastructure, strategic bombing, and ground attack.
According to reports, the new F-15EX has a combat range of 1,100 miles against F-35’s 670 miles. The Boeing fighter is also much faster and boasts a speed of Mach 2.5 as compared to F-35’s speed of Mach 1.6, while also being able to accommodate heavy radars.
The F-35, due to its smaller stature in comparison to the heavyweight F-15EX, cannot accommodate heavy radars and fuel.
F-15EX Better Suited Against Pakistan, China
Amid threats from China and Pakistan, New Delhi needs its modern fighters to have substantial fuel tanks to fly for longer hours, so that they do not have to return to base for refueling.
The F-15EX fulfills this requirement; it can also strike deep into the territories of western neighbors Pakistan. The F-35 might offer its unique stealth abilities, but India doesn’t need stealth when it comes to its neighborhood and instead needs an air dominance jet that can dominate the Asian skies.
Another advantage is that the F-15EX fighter’s heavy engine capacities would make it more suitable to operate in the high altitude regions of Ladakh, something India requires to counter both Pakistan and China in the Himalayas.
F-15EX Has Already Been Offered To India
Last but not the least, unlike the F-35 fighters, the F-15EX fighters have already been offered by Boeing to India. This ensures that the transition process of the fighter or a potential deal between the US and Indian governments would be a lot smoother than that of the F-35 fighter.
It’s worth mentioning that Lockheed Martin’s Vice President for business development, JR McDonald, had indicated in September 2020 that countries like India were not yet ready for the F-35.
“Not every country in the world is ready today for an F-35. And, that can be either because they from a policy perspective haven’t become that level of partner with the United States yet, or maybe just the maturity of their military: it’s hard to jump from a MiG-21 directly into an F-35,” he said.
Given this uncertainty and proven combat capabilities of F-15EX jets, India would do well to opt for Boeing fighters and strengthen its fighter fleet on a priority basis.