Despite India reaching a five-point consensus with China, including the disengagement of both respective soldiers from the contested Himalayan Border, it is likely that the blazing fire between the two nations might not diffuse just yet.
Adding Pakistan in the mix along with its “Iron Brother” China, the future paves way for a series of escalations along India’s volatile border and thereby highlights India’s need to enhance its military arsenal and there is just the fighter jet which might do that – the new US “F-15EX”.
The most advanced version of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter jet, the F-15EX uses the frame of the classic F-15 and incorporates generations of technological improvements developed over the period of the last thirty years.
Developed by American aerospace juggernauts Boeing, the two-seat fighter possesses a deep magazine that can carry an array of advanced weapons on board and overshadows its predecessor F-15s because of its Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture.
According to Boeing, “The most significant difference between the F-15EX and legacy F-15s lies in its Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture. The OMS architecture will enable the rapid insertion of the latest aircraft technologies.”
While India’s recent induction of the first five of the 36 French Dassault 4.5 generation Rafale Jets is considered a promising sign for the Indian Air Force which is bolstering its air fleet, the current strength of 31 squadrons against the sanctioned one of 42 squadrons would need further procurements of advanced fighters – as India needs to be ready for a possible two-front war.
While the F-15EX were said to be running for the Indian Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract, they could yet again return for the MMRCA 2.0 which is to be phased by the IAF for the procurement of further 114 fighters.
With emerging conflicts on the border against neighbors China and Pakistan, there is a need for the future IAF fighters to fulfill different sets of roles. India needs fighter jets which have the ability to strike deep into enemy territories, while also being able to stay up in the air for longer hours, something which will be offered by the F-15EX.
The Russian-made SU 30 MKIs are already deployed on the Chinese border in the Himalayas, and if India decides to go ahead with the purchase, the fighters could be joined by F-15EX, with their heavy engine capacities making them suitable to be operated in the high altitudes regions.
Despite the F-15EX fighters not being stealth fighters unlike US’ most advanced F-35 fighter jets, the F-15EX fighters have a potent deterrent capability as compared to the smaller F-35s and are also able to attain air supremacy and even outdo the F-35 fighters.
While the F-35 is an aircraft for tactical operations, the F-15EX is an airspace dominance weapon system and can perform a variety of roles including cross border strikes, engaging in proximity fights with enemy fighter jets, destroying enemy ships while keeping the aircraft carriers at a safe distance.
While the F-35s are superior in terms of overall capabilities and are one of the most sought after jets in the world, however, the US Air Force has been mighty impressed with F-15EX jets and has recently placed an order with Boeing.
“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing F-15EX program manager. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”
What they would need would be an aircraft that can fly for longer hours, is heavily equipped with weapons systems, and is big enough to carry substantial fuel tanks, so that they do not have to return to the airbase for refueling.
This void can be filled by the F-15EX who can have a combat range of 1,100 miles as compared to the 670 miles range offered by the F-35s. Moreover, the F-15EX has a speed of Mach 2.5 and can accommodate heavy radars.
Moreover, with the fighters possessing the ability to strike deep within Pakistan and with its configurations modifiable to carry nuclear weapons, if New Delhi indeed looks to fill a squadron of these multi-role fighters, it would have a significant influence in the region besides cementing military ties with US government.