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.
lol dohkay! The F-35 may be a lot of things including overpriced, but it’s far from junk. Explain to me how you would take an F-4 over modern day aircraft?
They dropped the ball by shutting down the FB-22 project, because they would of had a strike fighter that would have complete superiority for the next 30 years EASILY.
“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.”
The F-15 was originally an air superiority fighter as well. The difference is in the pre-stealth era we could just hang ordinance under the wings. The F-22 has a credible, if limited air-to-ground capability. It can carry two 1,000 lb. bombs, or eight Small Diameter Bombs (250 lb. bombs claimed to be as capable as previous genertion 500 lb. bombs).
I think at this point funds would be better spent on something along the lines of the X-47B, rather than a modified F-22. With precision guided munitions ground support isn’t a problem, and unmanned systems have a number of advantages.
With the B-52s getting so old, I think what we really need is a credible new heavy strategic bomber. I love the concept of the B-1R, which would be an updated B-1 airframe re-engined with F-22 engines. It would supercruise at Mach 1.5+ (as the B-1 was originally designed to), be stealthier than the original, and include a rotary AMRAAM launcher for organic air-to-air capability. Fewer than 20 B-2s is just not enough capability.
I say just make a modern version of the B52. As a cruise missile platform you can stay outside of an enemy's air defense radius and just saturate them with Tomahawks.
I think they should replace all our current f15-s with these newer versions. Really try to get the most out of that model if it’s still useful.
If all you need is a cruise missile launch platform, why not just give a C-5 Galaxy a means to eject missiles out of its cargo bay?
They break too much. The 747 missile carrier was on the drawing board but was cancelled. It had rotary launchers and launched out a door in the rear. It held over a hundred cruise missiles.
Actually they had several. A-5, A-6 were both large and capable. A-1 was also a medium piston engined bomber. A friend of mine was a ‘Spad’ pilot. My cousin was a test pilot for the A-4.
There is some treaty we made that requires bombers to look different from passenger planes.
That would make a 747 based bomber a problem.
There is an A-6 parked on the deck of the carrier Midway museum in San Diego.
the queers are still in use...
The A-6 became the subject of denial of certiorari. A bereaved family sued, asserting that the design of the A-6 was in error, it not having redundancy in its flight controls. The supreme court denied its competency in the matter of design of naval aircraft.
No one follows those stupid treaties but us. Put a T-tail on it and bam, instant bomber.
I had to go back through my photos since something about “A-6” didn't sound right.
The airplane I was thinking of was the RA-5 Vigilante, which entered service in 1964. It was a supersonic flat top capable nuclear bomber that had its main mission taken over by nuclear submarines. It was converted to a reconnaissance aircraft and used extensively in VN.
The Navy finally scrubbed it due to its wing span, or so I'm told...
Well, I would not take something like the F-4 as it was, I’d put in newer avionics, perhaps update the engines and so on. It was a capable bomb-truck (and interceptor) although the A-4 and one of my favs, the A-7’s did the job well. Being a Pittsburgher, the A-7 is a fav of mine. I’d like to have seen the F-20 adopted, an up to date version of the F-5. Then there is my ultimate plane, the Avro Arrow, but that is for another time.
“There is nothing like seeing a BUFF raining 500 pounders.”
The B-1 is capable of carrying a heavier ordinance load than the B-52, is much stealthier, and can arrive where needed almost twice as fast. Further, bombs are far less expensive than cruise missiles. We must be cost conscious these days. ;-)
In many situations a X-47B type autonomous bomber would work fine as well. It’s essentially a reusable stealthy cruise missile that can hit multiple targets per mission.
Interesting. I live near the base for the VT-ANG (actually a civilian airport-BTV) that is supposed to be one of the first home bases for the F35. We currently have F16s. The noise for the F35 is a huge controversy here. The anti-military nuts are screaming that we will all have to move because these planes are so loud.
Supposedly the F35 won’t need to use afterburners to takeoff (as the F16s do) so it is somewhat difficult to compare the two.
I’d be interested to hear more of your observations. We used to have F4s here in the 80s and it’s hard to imagine the F35 could be louder than that.
I don't trust those unmanned thingies. I guess I'm old fashioned. Nothing can replace the five pound shoulder mounted computer.
What happens when you lose that X47 data link? I know you can go autonomous but can it differentiate between a school bus full of kids or one filled with Jihadists?
Having an offensive military version of a 747 is a bad idea on general principles. You don’t want to give paranoid Russian or Chinese military an additional excuse for shooting down airliners.
The airborne laser is on a modified 747. (offensive)Missile killer.
E3 AWACS are all modified versions of the 707.
The KC-10 tanker is a modified DC-10.
The KC-135 tanker is a modified 367 that looks like a 707.
The KC-135 replacement is a 767.
The Navy flies 737s called VC20 or something like that.
The P3 replacement will be a 737 (offensive)Can carry torpedoes, mines and missiles.
As you can see we already have a bunch of civilian airframes in the inventory.
“True about the Bone but it was sidelined during Desert Storm with reliability issues. We never got to see its true potential.”
I know it was used at least somewhat in Iraq, as one of the attempted strikes against Uday was from a B-1. At any rate, one hopes that across the board modernization would contribute to state of the art reliability. I know the F-22 and F-35 are touted as being good in that area.
“I don’t trust those unmanned thingies. I guess I’m old fashioned. Nothing can replace the five pound shoulder mounted computer.”
You apparently “trust” those newfangled unmanned cruise missiles. ;-)
“What happens when you lose that X47 data link? I know you can go autonomous but can it differentiate between a school bus full of kids or one filled with Jihadists?”
While I’m sure the X-47 is “man in the loop” capable, it’s primary role is autonomous. As I said before, it can perform about the same role as a cruise missile, just with the added benefit of re-use.
It should be pointed out that not even a an A-10 pilot at low altitude could tell a bus full of terrorists from one with kids. I seem to recall an A-10 destroying friendly forces in Iraq with a strafing run - and they were in full view.
Even with a drone, if there are folks on the ground designating the target they could call off the strike or redirect it as needed if circumstances dictate.
Regardless, Merry Christmas, and thanks for an interesting conversation!