Imagine my surprise when I read about the USAF buying its first new F-15 in twenty years today. I did a little looking and there are some people seriously steamed about this… politicians from F-35 production districts. I’ve talked about this before on this site; there is a reason the USAF is re-buying the F-15. It really takes something serious for an organization as big on bells and whistles as the Air Force to go back to buying an aircraft that is essentially a product of the late 60’s.
What is that serious thing? It’s things, actually. Cost overruns, reliability issues, infrastructure concerns, a gun that won’t hit, the dreary list goes on and on. No wonder the USAF wants to buy up to 72 new F-15EX models, the ‘Fifteen has been flying and killing since the 1970s, and these jets could form an important complement to an existing fleet of F-22’s and 35’s.
That is, they could complement the 35 and 22 fleet at a fraction of the cost of the newer generation jets.
I read somewhere that the AF is looking at fielding about 1700 F-35’s eventually. At 122 mil USD a pop, that’s a lot of money. So it makes sense that the USAF is looking to save some money by keeping the current fleet of F-15’s and 16’s flying for a while longer.
Plus, you have to be realistic about the wars we are likely to fight.
Almost all of the combat time faced by modern aircraft has been in air to ground scenarios. The USAF is unlikely to face a true peer conflict anytime soon, and the Chinese and the Russians are a long way back in terms of fighter development. Where they are awesome in is air defense, and the F-35 is supposedly better in penetrating modern defense networks.
OK, fine. If we are going to invade Russia and we need to put Moscow’s lights out, use a squadron of F-22’s or 35’s. And then stand back, because whatever idiot orders such a mission would have just kicked over a hornet’s nest with the nuclear option on the table. But I digress.
For non-peer conflicts the old battle-axe 16’s and 15’s will work just fine. I would even make the argument that a bird like the F-15EX could hold its own against many of the peer aircraft in service today.
I think someone at DoD and USAF HQ agrees with me. That’s why they want new and improved F-15’s.
And of course the purse-milkers hate the idea. Heaven forbid that we give our warfighters tools that actually make sense. Why the hell would you send a 122 million dollar fighter to blow up some crazies in a cave somewhere? Because that’s mostly what the Air Force does these days. You just plain don’t need a stealthy fifth generation fighter for those types of jobs. Plus… psst… the day of the manned aerial combat vehicle may be drawing to a close. So….
Order the F-15EX and be done with it.