Skip to comments.USAF mulls options for replacement of Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle
Posted on 12/15/2012 11:18:35 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
USAF mulls options for replacement of Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle
On 11 December, the Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle marked the 26th anniversary of its first flight, but the venerable strike fighter will continue serving with the US Air Force well into the 2030s.
"There are no plans to replace the F-15E for the foreseeable future," the USAF says. "It is true that the F-15E, like all of our legacy aircraft, are accumulating more flight time than used to be typical, but given current fiscal realities, the AF [air force] fleet will continue to age well past the point at which they would have been replaced in pre-Desert Storm days."
As a result, the service is taking steps to keep the Strike Eagle "a viable, sustainable, and fully capable platform". The USAF will conduct a full-scale fatigue test to determine an updated service life for the jet, and to discover if the aircraft needs any structural modifications or repairs.
The service is also replacing the F-15E's Raytheon APG-70 radar with the new Raytheon APG-82(V)1 active electronically scanned array (AESA), "which will greatly enhance the F-15E's ability to detect and very accurately locate ground targets", the USAF says. Additionally, it is upgrading the jet's electronic countermeasures suite with the Eagle passive/active warning and survivability system (EPAWSS). "These actions all demonstrate the [air force's] intent to keep the F-15E a vital part of the inventory for quite some time to come," it says.
But with an average fleet age of about 21 years, and around 6,000hrs on each airframe, the USAF will eventually have to either replace the jet or forego its capability.
It is not surprising that the USAF does not have a plan in place to replace the F-15E, says Mark Gunzinger, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "They have a lot of things to address right now, for example, funding in this pretty ugly budget environment for their three top priorities, which remain the [Lockheed Martin] F-35, [Boeing KC-46] tanker, and the [Long Range Strike] bomber."
The most obvious candidate to replace the F-15E is a variant of the F-35, Gunzinger says. There is no money to develop a clean sheet design. "I do think they'll do some kind of an F-35E or whatever kind of F-35 variant," he says.
Indeed, industry sources say detailed studies have been undertaken for a two-seat F-35 along with extended-range models. Both are "do-able," and are not mere theoretical constructs. And, if the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) adaptive engine technology development (AETD) programme yields an operational powerplant, it could help extend the F-35's range, particularly if the AETD delivers its promised 35% fuel efficiency increase over the existing Pratt & Whitney F135. Pratt & Whitney and General Electric are working on competing designs for the AETD programme.
Gunzinger does not doubt that building a two-seat F-35 is feasible, but questions if there is a need to do so. What would be more important, he says, is extended range and increased payload. Adding a second seat would require a more extensive redesign, which on a stealth aircraft is even more challenging than on a conventional jet, Gunzinger says. In any case, building a larger version of any stealth aircraft is practically as challenging as designing an all new aircraft. "Could you do it? Yeah, but it's probably more expensive than sticking with a single seat."
Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, disagrees. "What would you replace [the F-15] with? It's not an F-22, and it's not an F-35. Here we go starting to talk about sixth-gen or something," he says. It would have to be a clean-sheet design, but there is probably not going to be enough money to pay for an F-15E replacement given that the USAF will need to pay for a large number of aircraft procurements in the 2030 timeframe."
Goure says that significantly modifying the F-35's design to add greater range and payloads, let alone two seats, would result in practically a new aircraft. Goure says that if the F-35 is modified to take on the F-15E's role, it would be closer in scope to Lockheed's abortive F-22-derived FB-22 concept than the Joint Strike Fighter. And, if the aircraft were to be designed for service entry in the 2030s, there would also need to be major avionics and stealth technology upgrades. "You can call it an F-35, like we used to talk about an FB-22, but it's hard to see it not being at that point of a new aircraft," Goure says. There may also have to be compromises between range, payload, stealth and cost. "If it's stealth, and it's bigger, and it's a two-seater, it costs," he says.
The USAF ultimately may choose not to directly replace the F-15E with a new aircraft. "You might even want to question the need for an F-15E replacement," Gunzinger says. There is always the option of foregoing the mission space between the fifth-generation fighters and the next generation strategic bombers, Goure says.
Instead of an F-15E replacement, the USAF could increase the number of long-range strike bombers (LRS-B) it buys, Gunzinger says. But it could also develop some kind of stealthy unmanned aircraft, basically a "bomb truck". That unmanned aircraft could be "tethered" to a manned strike aircraft-like the LRS-B-to perform missions similar to the F-15E, he says.
Queue up Dale Brown to come up with something.
what about the f-15 stealth variant? maybe work at making the current stealth configuration even more stealthy?
Geeze. I should have gone for ECM in the Buffs. At least they'll be flying until I'm dead and dust.
0bama hates any talk of strengthening America, that is certain. He’s busy as hell doing the opposite.
I live under the approach to 17 across a lake from a military base. I lived here back when Kennedy was president. I remember B-58 sonic booms. I remember MITO take-offs on 36 by B-52s.
The F-35 which is built near here sounds like nothing like I've ever heard. I can hear it long before the F-16s (yay AF), and it's louder than the F-18 (loud navy barstids).
I'm less than impressed, but what does a cook know?
The Navy is working on a medium bomber, and that may have enough payload and range to perform the F-15 strike mission.
With liberals in charge .....
WHAT COULD GO WRONG?..................
That's just so sad. The F-15 was designed for high altitude, high speed, intercept and interdiction.
It's done yoeman's work in air-to-air, including landing missing a stab in one case, and most of a wing in another. No losses in combat against other aircraft.
Ground support. Give the Army organic control of the A-10.
Imagine how we old B-52 types feel about OUR follow-ons. . .
I thought the F-22 was designed to replace the F-15.
Also, the article states that development of the “Long Range Strike Bomber” is one of three top priorities for the USAF.
First I’ve heard about this.
Anyone have additional information?
i wasn’t necessarily saying junk the f35, i more meant supplement with the f15se...
It’s called the Silent Eagle but I don’t think they have any buyers. They were looking at Japan and Korea but they are both producing their own airframes.
The F22 is mostly an air-to-air platform. Not really designed for air-to-ground even though it could perform these missions but would not have a large weapons load out or be as stealthy.
Per another thread on this subject, I'm imagining all of the materials and components will be "made in China".
Aren’t we still making the F-15 for sale overseas? Why not just make some more for use here?
The Navy once had a carrier capable “medium bomber.”
Sounds like the old Carswell AFB.
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