Recently, the F-15X came to light
Boeing wants to build
fighter for the USAF as a 1:1 replacement of the F-15C/Ds. The initial impression running around the press was this was an unsolicited proposal by
Boeing to try to keep their F-15 line open. That appears to have been rather
The USAF apparently approached both Lockheed and Boeing about a cheaper compliment to the F-35A due to the fact the F-15C/Ds were getting up there in
age, the F-35s were coming behind the original plans in a big way and the 6th gen aircraft would be coming in after the 15C/Ds were retired. This
discussion was not for the replacement of the F-15E, btw. There's no word if Lockheed came back with an F-16 or not, but I suspect they don't want
to detract from the F-35 budget. The USAF had made it clear the proposal should not do so. However, Boeing, with no part in the 35A, came back with
The F-15X is something of a beast. It can carry 24 air to air missiles or 24 small diameter bombs or a mixture of the two. The 15X also gets a
cockpit update with a new all glass cockpit and avionics and sensor updates. The number of hours for the airframe goes WAAAAY up to somewhere around
28k hours: yes, this is a new manufacture, not a remanufactured C/D. Boeing is willing to do a fixed price contract. The cost comes in - supposedly
- at $65M/airframe.
That's the tough issue though. If Boeing were to replace the remaining ~400 F-15C/Ds, the cost would be $26 billion. An F-35A at current prices is
about $90M pre block buy. That same amount of money would get the USAF 288 F-35As at the current price and if the goals are actually reached and the
35A price is becomes $80M/each, the number of F-35As bought with that sum goes up to 325. You do get more F-15X than F-35A, but only 75 more. To
make this viable, IMO, the price needs to come down to $45M and the total cost comes down to $18B. With that amount, the only 225 F-35As could be
bought vs the 400 F-15Xs.
Likewise, the timing isn't great: the fastest this could start would be in 2020 with a couple year ramp up. The fastest the F-15X production could
be finished, IMO, would be 2026, probably 2028, really. The B-21 will be coming into play in a big way budget wise. The NGAD/PCA will have selected
a contractor by then and will need to have gone into EMD. Plus whatever else the USAF has to buy. It seems like a budget distraction there.
Finally, the F-15X will be facing a lot more 5th gen fighters. The J-20 had (iirc) 18 delivered this year so far and we're half way through. By
2026, there may be more J-20s than F-22s. In fact, I'd almost bet on it. It's also highly likely the next Chinese 5th gen (whether its the J-31 or
something else) will have joined the PLAAF by then. The Russian SU-57 might even be in full rate production by then. Within the life time of the
15X, the 6th gen fighters will have been fielded and the X will wildly be outclassed then.
I think the F-15X would have been the thing to do, say, circa 2008 while the F-35A was still in serious trouble. However, with near peers appearing,
the plan to build an updated 4th gen anew seems less than ideal. In fact, it seems like a bad one to me.
What do others think?