Friday, February 3, 2023

US Air Force’s F-15EX ‘Eagle 2’ Breaks Key Record; Outperforms F-35 Stealth Fighters In Price & Performance

The most recent and advanced iteration of the F-15 Eagle, the F-15EX, has ‘smashed a new record’ owing to the state-of-the-art upgrades given to the aircraft.

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The F-15EX has been rechristened as Eagle II and is expected to form the mainstay of the US Air Force (USAF) for decades to come.

Fox News reported that the upgrades given to the F-15E aircraft would enable this fighter jet to perform the same bomber functions at one-third of the operational cost of the F-35.

According to the report, the USAF has discovered that the new F-15EX fighter jet outperformed expectations regarding the number and weight of munitions after two years of experimental testing.

It has now been determined that the F-15EX may be more competent and less expensive to purchase and operate than the F-35 for tasks that do not heavily rely on stealth.

The aircraft’s EX upgrades allow it to operate for 20,000 flight hours for $29,000 per hour while still performing the same bomber duties as the two-seat F-15E. This is a third of what it costs to operate an F-35, which sells for roughly $100 million each.

The report comes days after this USAF workhorse completed a successful missile test that brought the aircraft closer to carrying more air-to-air missiles than any other fighter in its inventory-including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35, and the F-22 Raptor.

In addition, the F-15EX can carry up to 13.6 tons of weapons, more than any other F-15 model.

F-15ex
F-15EX Fighter Jet

According to the USAF, F-15 aircraft could carry eight air-to-air missiles before the F-15EX Eagle 2. However, the Eagle 2 adds four more missile stations at the wing tips. “The successful employment of these weapons is a major step in demonstrating the Eagle II aircraft’s missile capacity of 12 air-to-air missiles,” the USAF said.

The Air Force ordered eight F-15EX fighter bombers for $150 million a unit in mid-2020, and the first eight were delivered to it in early 2021. This updated F-15EX will replace the older F-15Es that are soon to be retired or flown less frequently due to their extensive use in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

F-35A Lightning II > Air Force > Fact Sheet Display
File Image: F-35A Lightning II

Previously, to purchase more F-15EXs, the service requested only 33 F-35s for 2023, 15 fewer than in the fiscal year 2022. The Pentagon has maintained that it is less expensive to purchase and operate than the F-35A of the fifth generation.

Earlier, reports published in the media have sought to debunk claims that the operational cost of F-15EX was lower than that of the F-35. A detailed analysis of Breaking Defense explains this and concludes that the cost of operating the two fighter jets is roughly the same.

However, it may be pertinent to note that the operational life of each F-15EX is predicted to be 20,000 hours, compared to the F-35’s 8,000 hours. This means the Air Force would need to buy three F-35As instead of just one to fly the same number of hours as an F-15EX.

USAF’s F-15 Eagle II Is Its Best Bet

The F-15EX replicates a standard F-15 with an improved processor, a new fly-by-wire (FBW) system, and a more sophisticated electronic warfare (EW) suite.

FBW is a computer-controlled, semi-automatic aircraft flight control system (FCS) that substitutes an electronic interface for mechanical flying controls.

This is significant as the traditional mechanical and hydro-mechanical FCS uses a series of levers, rods, cables, pulleys, and more, which pilots have to move to adjust control surfaces to aerodynamic conditions.

With a maximum attack range of 2,222 kilometers, the Eagle-II is the world’s fastest (Mach 2.5) and most technologically advanced warplane, with a payload capacity of 13.6 tons. Additionally, it has been upgraded to carry the most advanced weaponry, some of which are still developing.

The Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture, which enables quick integration of the newest features and systems, is the foundation upon which the F-15EX is built.

The F-15EX is intended to collaborate on some tasks with the covert F-35 or F-22 fighter jets in addition to replacing the archaic F-15C/D variants.

The Eagle 2 is being considered for duties to carry future hypersonic missiles that could not be accommodated inside a fifth-generation fighter weapons bay. The F-15EX can carry a far bigger weapons payload than fifth-generation versions.

The F-15EX will be the first aircraft in the USAF to be equipped with the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM), as previously reported by EurAsian Times. This is a far greater edge that this aircraft enjoys over the F-35.

Further, it may be worth noting that the F-15s have traditionally remained the best dogfighters in the USAF arsenal and the most combat-hardened fighter jets in the world. The upgrades given to the aircraft in the EX iteration take these combat capabilities to another level.

The F-15EX could be the first USAF fleet aircraft to carry laser weapons. In July 2022, LANCE (or Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments), a high-energy laser weapon, was delivered to the USAF by Lockheed Martin.

This indicates that the USAF has a variety of roles already planned for the F-15 Eagle II aircraft in years to come. This aircraft could be expected to form the backbone of US operations at home and globally.

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