In what could be a bad sign for the F-15 fleet, the Air Force has authorized a SLEP on the F-16 that will add another 4,000 hours to their life cycle.
As many as 300 Block 40-52 aircraft will undergo the SLEP, and Lockheed is working on a second program that would extend the life cycle farther.
This will theoretically extend their life until almost 2050.
Yeah I realize the philosophy and rationale behind how they want the PCA to be, much like B-21 actually which is what the Zombie horror that JSF
turned out to be should have been. Simpler, more direct and much quicker, with upgrade part of a continuous cycle. But even given that and assuming it
all goes close to plan, I just dont see them getting it in place by or ideally just before 2025, and even if it did with the current F-15C/D
restrictions I can see them needing to announce actual Eagle retirements somewhere in the next couple of years as more nasty structural surprises turn
up. They really need something NOW, and I'm far from convinced that 300 upgraded F-16's are a viable alternative if they can the F-15 SLEP and send
them to the boneyard. You really need something with more range, altitude, missile count, bigger AESA and the list goes on. The only alternative is
more Raptors but I dont think a line restart now is practical. The F-15 production is still warm and a modest buy can fill the gap along with the F-16
upgrade almost immediately, plus the operating costs on a modest new fleet would go down which helps fund it (along with SLEP money redirected) till
PCA is properly up and running.
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