F15-EX Overview, Specification, Performance | Page 7 | World Defense

F15-EX Overview, Specification, Performance

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Boeing Bid To Sell F-15EX Eagles To India Faces Stiff Competition
Sebastien Roblin
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Aerospace & Defense

Operation Iraqi Freedom

IN FLIGHT - JULY 6: In this handout image provided by the U.S. Air Force, an F-15 Strike Eagle ... [+]
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Boeing BA -1.2% is showing growing interest in selling its F-15EX twin-engine multi-role fighters to the Indian Air Force. Back in February, Boeing Vice President Pratyush Kumar stated the company was seeking a license to export the F-15EX to India—a request which may soon be granted according to Indian defense journalist Shiv Aroor.
This latest variant of the nearly 50-year-old F-15 combines decades of upgrades developed for export model Eagles into a new multi-role platform for U.S. service with Air National Guard squadrons. The first eight F-15EXs out of an expected final order of 144 to 200 are due off the St. Louis assembly line in 2021.
Boeing has had some success exporting military aircraft to India, notably deals for Apache Guardian and Chinook helicopters, as well as C-17 transports and P-8I patrol planes. But it has so far been unsuccessful in offering another twin-engine fighter, the FA-18 Super Hornet, to meet the same Indian Air Force requirement the F-15 may be aimed at.
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If Boeing can secure the necessary authorizations, the venerable F-15—a type famously undefeated in air-to-air combat—may then confront a flock of more recent designs.

New Delhi’s Endless Quest for Foreign Fighters
India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition to procure between 126 to 200 “medium fighters” has been a mess since its inception in 2001, dragging on so long the Indian Air Force’s initial preferred choice, the Mirage 2000, ceased to be available for production.
In 2012, India decided to buy France’s cutting-edge Dassault Rafale fighter. But for the final deal signed in 2016, India only ordered 36 jets for €7.81 billion (over $9.2 billion). The resulting 41% increase in unit price caused a political scandal.
Congress Supporters Protest Against BJP Over Rafale Deal

NEW DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 7: Activists of the Delhi Pradesh Youth Congress shout slogans during a ... [+]
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Facing a huge impending shortfall of fighters as India retires its old MiG-21 and MiG-27 jets, New Delhi then issued a new requirement for 114 single-engine light fighters, which seemingly boiled down to a choice between Swedish Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen fighter and an upgraded version of the Lockheed-Martin F-16 (later re-branded the F-21) built in India in cooperation with Tata.
This might have been a quick done deal, but the Indian Air Force apparently didn’t really want to consider only single-engine fighters and rebooted the procurement yet again in February 2018, this time allowing twin-engine aircraft. While the IAF has yet to issue specific requirements, it reportedly is now seeking 114 aircraft for a procurement that could total $15 billion or more.
For now, virtually every advanced fourth-generation jet fighter available for export (save for those from China, a military rival) is now on the table.
It’s worth noting India could also eventually end up pursuing a fifth-generation stealth aircraft: perhaps a a mature form of Russia’s Su-57 Felon stealth fighter—though New Delhi withdrew from a program to co-develop an Indian variant called the FGFA—or Lockheed’s fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter, subject of some Indian interest.
What does the F-15 bring to the table?
The Indian Air Force faces a political choice as much as a technical one as New Delhi balances its relationship between its historical arms supplier Russia, and its growing partnership with Washington in countering pressure from China.
Notably, the U.S. CAATSA act means it could theoretically sanction India for Russian arms purchases, though it has so far refrained from doing so.
The choice will be hugely significant beyond the value of the airframes themselves. Combat aircraft are built for compatibility with national “eco-systems” of avionics (including radars, datalinks, electronic warfare suites etc.) and weapons ranging from air-to-air missiles to GPS-guided glide bombs.
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A Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat aircraft of the Indian Air Force takes off during an aerial display at ... [+]
AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
For example, Russian R-73 and R-77 air-to-air missiles are compatible with both MiG-29 and Su-30 fighters; and a technician specialized in maintenance of one aircraft’s systems may more easily transfer those skills to work with another.
The IAF has never operated American jet fighters before. Currently the Indian Air Force flies Russian Su-30s, MiG-21s and MiG-29s and French Jaguars, Mirage 2000s and Rafales, in addition to its growing fleet of domestic Tejas jet fighters. The Indian Navy also operates MiG-29K carrier-based fighters. The IAF recently purchased 12 more Su-30s and 21 MiG-29s to shore up its flagging numbers.
A decision to purchase American-built fighters would require India to invest in a broader inventory of weapons and avionics systems, in turn encouraging further purchases from the United States. That would mark a politically significant break from its long history of Russian arm purchases.
The F-15EX versus the Field
Let’s consider the tradeoffs between various jet fighters being considered by the IAF.
On one end of the spectrum of choices are less expensive (but not unsophisticated), short-range single-engine tactical fighters, notably the Lockheed F-16/F-21, Saab Gripen and Russia’s Mikoyan-i-Gurevich MiG-35 (an evolved MiG-29).
Though these are excellent aircraft for sparring at the border, they may have difficulty carrying heavy loads over long distances, and one wonders if the IAF really is interested in single-engine fighters having rebooted the competition to include twin-engine jets. Furthermore, India just ordered 83 more domestic Tejas single-engine jets which fill that niche.
Next, there are middle-weight twin-engine jets like the Super Hornet, Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon to consider. Though not stealth aircraft, these later designs boast radar cross-sections around one-fifth or less that of the Eagle.
The Typhoon is superior at high-altitude, high-speed air-to-air combat, while the Rafale is stronger at lower altitudes, can operate from more austere airfields, and has better ability to penetrate air defense capabilities thanks to its SPECTRA electronic warfare self-defense system. Both have a slower maximum speed than the Eagle’s Mach 2.5, but are capable of cruising at supersonic speeds without using afterburners while the Eagle cannot.
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A French made Rafale jet fighter is exhibited in the workshops of Dassault-Aviation in Merignac near ... [+]
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Boeing’s twin-engine FA-18E/F Super Hornet Block III is noted for its advanced networked sensors and it ability to achieve high angles of attack at low speeds. But though likely less expensive, it is limited by its short combat range and doesn’t exhibit the raw flight performance of its land-based European rivals.
It’s also worth recalling the IAF already chose the Rafale over the Typhoon, Super Hornet and F-16 in 2012. Reportedly the U.S. jets were downgraded because the IAF evaluation criteria emphasized hot-rod flight performance characteristics over avionics.
Further increasing the IAF’s small Rafale fleet may be more economical than procuring an entirely new type. However, the Super Hornet may also offer economies if it’s chosen to fulfill a requirement for 57 jets for the Indian Navy. The Super Hornet’s F414 turbofans may also be integrated in future Indian combat aircraft. (However, the Indian Navy is also considering the carrier-based Rafale-M!)
(FILES) This photograph taken on Februar

(FILES) This photograph taken on February 11, 2009, shows a US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet strike ... [+]
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Finally, on the heavy multi-role side of the spectrum are the F-15EX and its Russian counterpart, the Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E, a successor to the Su-30MKI Flanker-C jets in service with India.
Both the Eagle and Flanker-E are capable of attaining higher maximum speeds, flying longer distances, and carrying heavy payloads than the aforementioned light and medium fighters.
Why might India opt for a heavy fighter for its medium fighter competition? Long-range fighters may be desirable for patrolling the Indian Ocean where China’s PLA Navy is increasing its presence. Heavy fighters could also conduct penetrating strikes more deeply inside enemy territory—though admittedly at significant risk due to not being stealth aircraft. Finally, heavy fighters could carry heavier munitions, including potentially hypersonic missiles or India’s Brahmos cruise missile.
MAKS 2019 air show in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Day 4

MOSCOW REGION, RUSSIA AUGUST 30, 2019: A Sukhoi Su-35S air superiority fighter performs a flight at ... [+]
SERGEI BOBYLEV/TASS
Compared head to head, the Su-35 undoubtedly is more maneuverable than the F-15EX thanks to its thrust-vector engines, boasts a powerful long-range multimode Irbis-E radar, and it’s airframe is moderately less visible on radar.
However, some of the F-15EX improvements narrow the gap between the earlier F-15C and the Su-35S in terms of sensors, self-defense systems, and payload.
For example, the F-15EX’s APG-82 AESA radar is arguably superior to the Su-35’s Irbis because it is higher-resolution, harder to detect and more resistant to jamming; it also can efficiently scan and jam simultaneously. The F-15EX also finally incorporates an infrared sensor, a longtime feature of Russian fighters. The F-15’s dated self-defense suite has also been updated with the new EPAWSS system.
In terms of munitions, Russian R-77 air-to-air missiles theoretically out-range U.S. AIM-120 missiles. However, India reportedly found in an air battle in 2019 that jets armed with R-77s were in practice outranged by Pakistani F-16s equipped with AIM-120Cs. Russia has also reportedly struggled to produce and deploy the more advanced R-77-1 variant.
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Media personnel take images of missiles of an Indian Mig-21 fighter aircraft, which was being flown ... [+]
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Though Russia has produced diverse precision air-to-ground weapons, the U.S. has combat-tested and mass produced such weapons on a vastly greater scale.
In terms of price, the export Su-35 and F-15EX appear to come in the mid-$80 millions to $70 millions according to various reports. However, Russia has claimed it can build Su-35s for roughly half that price, so India might be able to bargain for a reduced rate.
Another important consideration: the Su-35S has a service life of 6,000 flight hours, while the F-15EX is rated for an extraordinary 20,000 hours. Furthermore, India has had reliability issues with its Russian-built MiG-29 and Su-30 aircraft.
In the end much remains uncertain regarding India’s fighter procurement. Is the IAF leaning towards light or heavy combat jets, or something in between? Will it opt to operates its first ever U.S.-built fighters, or keep things familiar by buying Russian as it usually has in the past? Or will New Delhi turn to a European manufacturer again?
Whatever the case, Boeing appears inclined to cast new chips into the pot of an already long-running game being played for very high stakes.

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mtime7

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After Rafale F15 has no chance india will go more Rafale
It depends on what role they are looking to fill, I believe they should have bought more Rafale, but there are roles that it will not fill, so a larger aircraft maybe necessary
 

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It depends on what role they are looking to fill, I believe they should have bought more Rafale, but there are roles that it will not fill, so a larger aircraft maybe necessary
You maybe right but it will cost alot of money 72 Rafale around 19 billions and F15? $$$$$$$$$$
 

mtime7

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You maybe right but it will cost alot of money 72 Rafale around 19 billions and F15? $$$$$$$$$$
Isn't 72 F-15 6.12Billion? That should be fly away cost with spare parts and everything. Or is my math that bad
 

Mingle

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Isn't 72 F-15 6.12Billion? That should be fly away cost with spare parts and everything. Or is my math that bad
Qatar will buy 72 about 12 billions I dont think india have this much spare for new platform
 

mtime7

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Qatar will buy 72 about 12 billions I dont think india have this much spare for new platform
maybe I am having a serious brain fart today, but wouldn't that be about 167 million per jet? Qatar must be getting a lot more than just a fly away plane, they must be getting a ship load of weapons and contractor mechanics, hell they might even be getting some Boeing pilots to fly them. I can't remember which Asian country that Boeing provided pilots for their F18's, but they did
 

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Could the F-15EX Transform the U.S. Defense Industry?​

Can Boeing, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Air Force use an old fighter to teach the U.S. aerospace industry new tricks?

As was widely reported in July, the Air Force has decided to acquire a large number of F-15EX fighters over the next several years. The F-15EX was initially expected to replace the elderly F-15 C/D, but the latest reports indicate that it may also replace the Air Force’s fleet of F-15Es.

Essentially, the F-15EX concept binds generations of technological innovation into the very old F-15 airframe. The F-15EX uses the classic F-15 frame but incorporates a host of technological improvements developed over the course of the last thirty years.


Serial production of the F-15, driven largely by foreign sales in recent years, enables the integration of new technologies and keeps both the workforce and the manufacturing facilities fresh. The logic of replacing the F-15E (alongside the F-15C/D) is straightforward:
- the F-15 and the F-35 have overlapping, non-identical missions and capabilities;

the F-15EX significantly expands the capabilities of the existing F-15 fleet

- Eliminating the need for expensive service life extension programs.

At the very least, the F-15EX project means that the Air Force will have new, advanced airframes capable of doing the jobs that F-15s have been doing for decades.

More interesting, however, is the idea that the F-15EX may offer a pathway into the Digital Century Series (DCS). To review, the Century Series concept (associated most notably with Air Force chief of acquisition Wil Roper) involves designing and building an evolutionary set of airframes in small batches with open-source architecture. Roper has embraced the “Century Series” metaphor, notwithstanding the lack of success of the first “Century Series” which produced a set of mediocre aircraft soon eclipsed by the F-4 Phantom II, and critiques that the focus on manned aircraft is misplaced, and that the attention given to the DCS would be more profitably spent on unmanned aerial vehicles.

In the DCS concept, digital engineering technologies would allow the separation of production and design, while the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies would remedy some of the problems associated with the multiplication of spares and maintenance procedures. More importantly, the system would enable to continuous integration of new technologies into new airframes, as opposed to the much slower process necessitated by the precise requirements of stealth airframes. Thus, the “Digital Century Series” represents an entirely new way of thinking about aircraft acquisition, and indeed could lead to a substantial restructuring of the US aerospace industry

It’s wrong to say that the F-15EX is the first stage of the DCS. Stephen Trimble argues that while the F-15EX program uses many of the same tools that the Digital Century Series envisions, including advanced computer modeling and a modular platform, it is not part of the DCS per se. Trimble also discusses some differences in the handling of intellectual property between the two systems, as Boeing retains substantial rights over the F-15EX while the DCS system envisions full ownership of the relevant IP by the Air Force.

But this does not mean that the F-15EX experience will not serve as a useful test for the DCS process. Boeing has noted that the F-15EX will include a set of design features that will enable rapid upgrades, and also access to the Air Force’s new battle management system, a key part of DCS thinking. Roper himself has touted the connections between the F-15EX and the DCS, notwithstanding the evident architectural gaps.

Not least important, the F-15EX ensures that Boeing will remain a player in the fighter business. Part of Roper’s objective in pursuing the DCS has been to limit and possibly reverse the industry consolidation that occurred in the military aerospace sector from the 1990s on. Some DCS advocates have even suggested the nationalization of certain aspects of the military aerospace industry, which would resemble in some ways the Soviet system of separate state-owned design bureaus and production facilities. This seems perhaps a step too far, given the history of the US defense industrial base and existing U.S. political realities. But the ability of Boeing to use digital tools to design and produce the F-15EX necessarily makes it a player in the next stage of the Air Force’s project development.

The F-15EX is hardly an inexpensive aircraft, with the cost of new models exceeds that of the F-35A. From the basis of a very old airplane, however, it offers the potential for a new way of thinking about how the Air Force will manage the age-old problem of balancing the existing fleet needs against the relentless advance of technology. If the F-15EX program leads to important lessons learned that enables the DCS, it resolves the problem of putting all of the Air Force’s eggs into a single high-technology basket, such as the F-22 or F-35. But the practical application of this theory of design remains untested, and it cannot be denied that building legacy fighters during a period of resurgent great power competition opens up many questions about the ability of the US aerospace industry to offer long-term defense solutions.

Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Image: Boeing.
 

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GE ships first engines for F-15EX fighter

By Craig Hoyle
16 September 2020

GE Aviation has delivered its first F110-129 engines for integration with Boeing’s F-15EX fighter, ahead of the new model’s flight debut next year.
Announcing the development on 16 September, GE said its relationship with Boeing on the project dates back to 2014, when the propulsion supplier “began investing resources and made a long-term commitment to become qualified on the F-15EX”.

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Source: GE Aviation
GE’s first contract covers provision of 19 F110-129 engines

The US Air Force (USAF) in June awarded Boeing a contract to produce a first batch of eight interceptors, without disclosing its engine selection. GE confirms that during the same month it received a Lot 1 contract from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to supply 19 F110-129s, plus modernised engine monitoring system computers.

Shawn Warren, GE Aviation’s vice-president and general manager of large combat and mobility engines, says the company’s F110 production line is “fully operational and ready to serve the F-15EX programme”.

“We’re proud to deliver these engines to Boeing and do our part to ensure the air force’s rapid fielding requirements are met to maintain fighter aircraft capacity,” Warren adds.

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Source: Boeing
US Air Force plans to buy 144 of the new-generation fighter


Due to enter squadron service from 2023, the F-15EX is intended to allow the USAF to rapidly re-equip squadrons currently flying aged F-15C/Ds. It intends to acquire up to 144 examples, but could eventually increase this to as many as 200.

GE notes that F110s have powered all the F-15s delivered since 2012, including aircraft for export operators Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
 

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Can Boeing score 60-year production run with rejuvenated F-15?

By Craig Hoyle
15 September 2020

Even before the US Air Force (USAF) ordered an initial eight examples in an EX-model configuration in July, Boeing’s F-15 programme had already achieved remarkable longevity.

Worth almost $1.2 billion, the award marked the first step towards the service acquiring a planned 144 of the type: total business valued at $23 billion. Longer term, EX output for the USAF could reach 200 airframes.

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Source: Boeing
US Air Force will field new-generation EX model from 2023


At the time of the contract announcement, an initial pair of test aircraft were already in the advanced stage of assembly at Boeing’s St Louis site in Missouri. These will be flown for the first time and handed over to the air force in the first quarter of next year, and used to support assessment tasks.

Four more aircraft will be employed for development and operational testing by the service, before production deliveries swiftly commence.
In mid-August, the USAF announced that training activities will begin in 2022, at Kingsley Field Air National Guard (ANG) base in Oregon. A first active squadron to receive the type will be established at the ANG’s Portland base in the same state in 2023. This rapid fielding plan was a pivotal factor in the F-15EX’s selection to replace some of the USAF’s F-15C/D interceptors, which Cirium fleets data shows are an average of 36 years old.

Faced with a looming shortage of air dominance fighters, the service opted to quickly acquire the new type instead of fielding some Lockheed Martin F-35As. The EX’s projected per-hour operating cost of $29,000 is one-third less than for the stealthy Lightning II, and Boeing says platform and system commonality with the F-15C/D means pilots and maintainers could transition to the replacement model “in a matter of days, as opposed to years”.

The USAF’s selection extends a decades-old relationship. The then McDonnell Douglas delivered its first three F-15As to the service for testing in 1972, after it had selected the twin-engined type five years earlier. Initial operating capability was declared in 1975, and formal entry into service occurred during 1976.

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Source: US Air Force
A-model fighter was introduced to service in 1976


After receiving almost 800 A/B- and C/D-model fighters, the USAF also introduced the ground-attack-optimised F-15E Strike Eagle, with deliveries of 253 aircraft running between 1988 and 2004.

By mid-August 2020, total F-15 programme deliveries stood at 1,752 aircraft for the USAF and five international customers, Cirium data shows. Of that number, 1,065 remain in active service, along with four examples flown for test purposes by NASA. The USAF employs 457 C/D/Es, with the remainder flown by Israel (85), Japan (200), Saudi Arabia (224), Singapore (40) and South Korea (59).

INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS​

Israel in 1976 became the type’s first international customer, and its air force today has the unique distinction of still operating the F-15 in each of its A/B/C/D variants, plus 25 ground-attack-specialist F-15Is.

Annual deliveries rose rapidly to total 115 in 1977 and 116 the following year, before hitting a peak of 130 in 1979, Cirium data shows. Japan was another early adopter of the type, with Boeing- and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-completed J/DJ examples fielded from 1980.

Cirium information shows that shipments averaged 70 per year through the 1980s, before reducing to an average of 35 during the 1990s and six in the 2000s. This came as E-model output concluded and the assembly line relied on export orders from Singapore and South Korea. Notably, 2001 saw zero deliveries made – the only blank recorded through the programme’s history.

Annual output in the decade from 2010 maintained double figures, with an average of 13 handed over per year. These included more SG-model fighters for Singapore and K-variant jets for South Korea, plus a new class of Advanced F-15s for Saudi Arabia. Delivered from 2013 via an 84-aircraft procurement, Riyadh’s SA-variant – which followed its earlier introduction of C/Ds – was the first to feature fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls.

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Source: Cirium fleets data

With shipments to Saudi Arabia poised to conclude, Boeing is currently producing derivative F-15QA (Qatar Advanced) fighters for Doha. The Gulf nation’s first example made its debut flight from St Louis in mid-April, as part of a 36-aircraft purchase. Deliveries will run from 2021-2022, according to Cirium, while an option to double the size of its fleet could lead to another 36 being transferred between 2023 and 2025.
Boeing F-15 programme manager Prat Kumar says the USAF’s new EX model also draws on the lessons of a five-year test campaign conducted for Saudi Arabia.
The USAF aircraft will retain the Advanced F-15’s two-seat configuration, although the service plans to operate the type with only one crew member. Kumar says this reflects its desire to rapidly replace the C/D-model fleet with “a jet that can be incorporated into service without a lot of fielding and pilot training”.
“This is a jet that first started flying in the ’70s, but today we’re building it in an entirely different way,” Kumar says. “Digital engineering is enabling that.”
By creating a “digital replica” of aircraft sections, the company has driven major production enhancements, already seen during assembly of the first two jets.

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Source: Boeing
Programme’s lead aircraft are already in the advanced stage of assembly
Using 3D models, Boeing has been able to more efficiently outsource work to its supply chain, for example the exact drilling of holes for fasteners.
“Parts can be manufactured in a supply base in a very precise manner,” Kumar says. “When you bring [the parts] into the factory, it all comes together and the hundreds of thousands of holes line up in the assembly area.” He adds: “When we did the nose barrel, after the initial learning curve, it led to almost a 70% reduction in touch labour in the workshop.”
Key technologies to be incorporated with the F-15EX include a Raytheon APG-82 active electronically scanned array radar and an advanced cockpit system. This features a large-area display measuring 10 x 19in, low-profile head-up display and use of the Collins Elbit Vision Systems Digital Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System. This combination will provide pilots with “unprecedented situational awareness”, says Kumar.
The EX will use an open mission system architecture, employing Boeing’s Advanced Display Core Processor II – a technology described by Kumar as “perhaps the fastest mission computer on any fighter jet in the world”. The aircraft’s Operational Flight Program Suite 9.1X software will also retain commonality with the standard currently used by USAF F-15s, he adds, “maintaining interoperability across the entire fleet”.
“That digital backbone, open mission systems and agile software development really forms the ‘holy trinity’ that allows us to rapidly test new capabilities on this jet – not just for the F-15, but broadly for the air force, that can be deployed elsewhere,” Kumar says.
Self-protection will come from BAE Systems’ Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, which is currently in flight testing using six aircraft at Eglin AFB, Florida.

EXPANDED LOADOUT​

Retaining Mach 2.5 performance and a 65,000ft operating ceiling, the fighter will have an expanded loadout of up to 12 air-to-air missiles carried at wing and fuselage stations. Other payload options include Lockheed’s pod-housed Legion infrared search and track sensor, acquired for the F-15C fleet.
Alternatively, it could also provide the service with a crucial capability for a non-bomber platform to deploy a future class of hypersonic strike weapons, thanks to a centreline stores point capable of carrying a 6.7m (22ft)-long weapon weighing up to 3,170kg (7,000lb).
With its rear seat occupied by a weapon systems operator or mission manager, the EX could also over time see its use expanded from flying homeland defence missions in the USA to potentially operating in concert with so-called loyal wingman vehicles.
“It can easily be configured for manned-unmanned teaming, and we look forward to working with the air force to define this concept further,” Kumar says.
Following receipt of its initial eight EXs, Cirium data indicates the USAF’s subsequent 136 units would be transferred starting with 12 in 2024, rising to 16 a year between 2025 and 2030, and concluding with 14 each in 2031 and 2032. This would see the F-15 programme achieve a production run spanning 60 years.
Additional international orders could yet add to this backlog. Israel is currently eyeing a follow-on buy of Advanced F-15s, to bolster its I-model examples delivered between 1997 and 1999. Kumar says Boeing expects a letter of request for such an acquisition to emerge within the next year, with the nation also expected to request a modernisation programme for its in-service Is.
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Source: Israeli air force
Israel could upgrade its current F-15I inventory, and take 25 new aircraft

Upgrades could be made in areas such as incorporating the new cockpit layout and updated electronic warfare equipment, but could not introduce a FBW update to the legacy platforms.

Japan has already initiated a process to modify its in-service aircraft to an enhanced to JSI (Japan Super Interceptor) standard. Mitsubishi will act as prime contractor for the work, which will incorporate Boeing-supplied modification kits. Tokyo intends to have 98 of its current fighters updated as part of a broader modernisation plan worth $4.5 billion.
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Source: Boeing
Tokyo is to modernise current fighters to a ‘Japan Super Interceptor’ standard


Further new-build sales also remain a possibility. India is being considered as one potential future customer, although Boeing does not currently hold a marketing licence to promote the type to New Delhi. Kumar says the company will decide on its approach for the air force’s 110-aircraft requirement after a formal request for information is issued by the nation, with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet being another potential candidate.

Beyond extending its production of the F-15 into the 2030s and providing a foundation for further export sales, the EX contract also will support

Boeing’s pursuit of the USAF’s future Digital Century Series requirement for rapidly evolving combat capability.

While its airframe design may date back to the 1960s, the technologies now being embodied with the digital-era F-15EX could indeed see the platform become a “pathfinder” for the USAF’s next generation of advanced fighters.
 

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The First F-15EX Fighter Jet Has Now Flown In Its Air Force Colors​

The aircraft is slated to be one of the first two F-15EXs to be handed over to the Air Force for test work in the coming months.​

BY THOMAS NEWDICK FEBRUARY 23, 2021
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The U.S. Air Force’s latest and greatest Eagle, the new F-15EX, now looks a lot more like the powerful war machine that it’s promised to be. After its maiden flight on February 2, which you can read all about here, the first of these aircraft returned to the air today in St. Louis, Missouri, with a newly applied, F-15C/D-style service color scheme. The markings include the tail codes of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and its resident 40th Flight Test Squadron, which will be charged with proving out the jet in the months to come.

The superb photos of this jet, including the one seen at the top of this story, were supplied to The War Zone by Alex Farwell of Viking Aero Images. They include shots of the F-15EX with its new look conducting a “Viking takeoff,” as well as the recovery at the end of this latest test flight mission. Reportedly, this was the aircraft’s first flight in the hands of an Air Force test pilot, rather than one from Boeing.

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The War Zone was first to unveil the F-15X initiative and describe its implications back in July of 2018 and the Air Force is now getting closer to taking delivery of its first examples. Eglin Air Force Base is scheduled to receive the first two of these new Eagles in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, which began on January 1 this year. The other six jets from the first batch already on order are expected to be delivered to the Air Force in Fiscal Year 2023, but this could potentially come to pass significantly sooner.

The first F-15EX aircraft is serial number 20-0001, which we saw for the first time last summer when the Air Force announced that Boeing had won a contract worth nearly $23 billion to work on the program. That effort is intended to fulfill an urgent requirement for new-build fighters, primarily to replace the Air Force's aging F-15C/D fleet.

As well as orders for the first aircraft, the Air Force has awarded another contract to General Electric for F110-GE-129 engines to power at least some of the initial batch of F-15EXs. Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney is also expected to submit its F100-PW-229 engine as an alternative under a planned open competition. The issues around the selection of the F-15EX’s engines are something you can read more about in this recent War Zone piece.

“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” General Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said last summer. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”

Beyond that, the F-15EX will begin equipping the Air National Guard’s formal F-15C/D training unit, the 173rd Fighter Wing based at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon. The first of the frontline recipients will then be the 123rd Fighter Squadron, the “Redhawks,” of the 142nd Fighter Wing, based in Portland, Oregon. This is scheduled to occur in 2023, under plans that you can read more about here. Beyond that, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and California-based F-15C/D units could all potentially transition to the new airframe as well, but the F-35A remains another option for these units.

The Air Force has requested funds for an additional 12 aircraft in the 2021 Fiscal Year and builds toward its aim of purchasing a total of 76 F-15EXs over the five-year Future Years Defense Program. Ultimately, the service hopes to buy at least 144 of the jets to replace its older F-15C/Ds that are rapidly running out of service life. The possibility of replacing the F-15E with the F-15EX has also been touted, at least unofficially, while ongoing assessment into the flying future force mix for tactical fighters could provide yet more opportunities for the Boeing fighter.

Outside of the United States, there is also the potential for export sales. Boeing is pitching the jet to India and Israel although, for the time being, the Israeli Air Force has opted for additional F-35Is. In recent weeks, Indonesia has also been suggested as a possible, albeit less likely candidate, for the F-15EX.

Whatever happens, the F-15EX is now in the ascendancy and it won’t be long until Air Force pilots are flying the new jet on a regular basis.

Contact the author: [email protected]
 

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Here Are All The Details We Noticed In The Photos Of The New F-15EX During Its First Flight​

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The F-15EX during landing. From this angle we can get a good look at the engine’s nozzles, the EPAWSS fairings, the new symmetrical fairings on top of the vertical tail fins and the possible telemetry antennas red marked in red. (Photo: Alex Farwell/vikingaeroimages)

Some interesting details can be found in the first photos of the F-15EX, which are useful also for a comparison with the F-15C that will be replaced by the new fighter.​

The first F-15EX built for the U.S. Air Force took to the skies for its maiden flight on Feb. 2, 2021. The aircraft flew only with its primer paint and a small serial number (20-0001) on its twin tails, a common practice for the first flight of any newly built aircraft that leaves the production line. It will receive its final colors and insignias at a later stage, after completing functional checks and certifying the airworthiness.

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The F-15EX-1 taking off for its first flight. (Photo: Jerry McGrath/Cryonic_Photography)

Today we will give a closer look to some of the details of the new aircraft, thanks to the photos kindly sent to us by Jerry McGrath of Cryonic_Photography and one that we didn’t publish last time, sent to us by Alex Farwell of vikingaeroimages.

During the first flight, test pilots Matt Giese and Mike Quintini took the F-15EX up to 40,000ft and Mach 2, as reported by aviation photographer and journalist Jamie Hunter. In an interview to The Warzone, Giese said that the flight profile closely mirrored the standard Boeing Acceptance Test Procedure (ATP) with few differences for the specific configuration, with engine checks at various altitudes, engine shutdowns and air restarts, in addition to the checks of the various systems aboard the jet.

A detail that many of our readers noticed in the comments is that the F-15EX is a two seats aircraft and it will replace the F-15C which is a single seat aircraft, with only the D model being in a two seats configuration as it is used for training with an instructor in the back seat. When the F-15X program, also known as Advanced F-15, was first launched, both a single and two seat variants were proposed, called F-15CX and F-15EX respectively, and both with the same exact capabilities.

The Air Force ultimately decided to go only with the two seats variant, which will reportedly have the option to fly with a single pilot or with both pilot and Weapons Systems Officer (WSO), with the latter being an important addition in complex missions which could also feature the command and control of “Loyal Wingman” drones in the future. One of the reasons for this decision is also the fact that only the two seats variant of the F-15 is still in production, and the F-15EX program is all about the most affordable and immediate solution that can be fielded to refresh the Eagle fleet.

Initially the F-15C/D was to be entirely replaced by the F-22A Raptor, the first 5th gen. fighter aircraft of the U.S. Air Force. The service planned to buy 750 Raptors to replace both the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon, but that number was cut to 187 production aircraft, which is also less than the about 230 F-15C/D still in service. Because of this, the operational life of the Eagle had to be extended as it was initially scheduled to be retired in 2019.

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A close-up of the forward fuselage and cockpit. You can notice the details we mentioned about the cockpit, antennas and the mounting points for MAWS. (Photo: Jerry McGrath/Cryonic_Photography)

While a first Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) required only a replacement of the longerons to maintain structural integrity, the Eagles now need new wings, as they have long surpassed their expected service-life estimates. To give you a better idea, consider that the youngest F-15C has been in service for 35 years already. In 2019, the decision was made to allocate the funding for the first eight of at least 144 F-15EXs, as this would be a more practical solution than waiting for enough F-35s to be available to replace also the F-15C. The contract was then signed during the last summer.

As for the F-35 replacing some of the F-15C squadrons, this intention has been confirmed again this summer by the Air Force, when it was announced that the 125th Fighter Wing of the Florida ANG, stationed in Jacksonville, will trade its F-15s for new F-35s in 2024; the 173rd Fighter Wing of the Oregon ANG, stationed at Kingsley Field, will become the first F-15EX Formal Training Unit (FTU) in 2022, and the 142nd Fighter Wing of the Oregon ANG, stationed in Portland, will become the first F-15EX operational unit in 2023. The press release then added that the remaining ANG F-15C units in Massachusetts, California and Louisiana will be replaced by either F-35As or F-15EXs.

Now, back to the photos and the other details.

If we look at the cockpit, we can notice that both the pilot and the WSO are wearing the new Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II (JHMCS II), similarly to the F/A-18F where both the crew members are equipped with the JHMCS and differently from the F-15E where the WSO wears only the standard HGU-55/P helmet. The new helmet features some improvements over the current JHMCS, with one of the most noticeable being the color symbology replacing the single-color symbology. The color symbology is currently an exclusive of ANG pilots flying with the Scorpion helmet on the F-16C Block 30 and A-10C.

Even if the test pilots flew with the new helmet, there are no official info about USAF intentions to acquire the new helmet. However, last summer the Air Force published a Request For Information (RFI) for a new Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) to equip the F-15EX. The notice mentions that the new helmet should provide the same or better capability than the current JHMCS while significantly reducing the head, neck, and spine burden placed on aircrews.

Giving a closer look at the cockpit, we can spot another detail which is the presence of the Low Profile Head-up Display (HUD) of Elbit Systems of America, the same company that also produces the JHMCS II. The digital HUD, more compact and lighter than traditional systems, has been installed also on the Gripen E/F and the F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornet. As a matter of fact, Elbit provides advanced cockpit systems like the HUD and the Large Area Displays for all the three fighters.

The F-15EX, to be more specific, has a full glass cockpit equipped with a 10×19-inch touch-screen multifunction color display and JHMCS II both in the front and rear cockpit, Low Profile HUD in the front, stand-by display and dedicated engine, fuel and hydraulics display, in addition to the standard caution/warning lights, switches and Hands On Throttle-And-Stick (HOTAS) controls, as opposed to the F-15C that it is going to replace, which has a mainly analogic cockpit with some new displays added in the recent years.

The systems are powered by the Advanced Display Core Processor II, reportedly the fastest mission computer ever installed on a fighter jet, and the Operational Flight Program Suite 9.1X, a customized variant of the Suite 9 used on the F-15C and F-15E, designed to ensure full interoperability of the new aircraft with the “legacy Eagles”.

The whole development of the F-15EX’s avionics is based on DevSecOps and Open Mission Systems(OMS) architecture. DevSecOps is an open-source approach implemented by the Department of Defense to unify software development (Dev) with “baked-in” cybersecurity (Sec) and software operation (Ops), allowing shorter development cycles and more frequent delivery of upgrades to the operational squadrons. The OMS architecture will allow to add new or improved capabilities on operational aircraft very quickly and at a reduced cost, thanks to the common interfaces and data formats that are shared by all systems and producers.

The first F-15EX was not carrying any sensors, other than the AN/APG-82(V)1 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the same chosen for the F-15E Radar Modernization Program. The radar, which has been developed from the APG-63(V)3 AESA radar of the F-15C and the APG-79 AESA radar of the F/A-18E/F, allows to simultaneously detect, identify and track multiple air and surface targets at longer ranges compared to mechanical radars, facilitating persistent target observation and information sharing for a better decision-making process.

Two other sensors are planned to be integrated on the F-15EX, the Legion Pod InfraRed Search and Track system (IRST) and the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod. Both systems are already integrated on the F-15C and will be transferred to the new aircraft, without the need to acquire new ones.
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he F-15EX maneuvering over St. Louis airport during the first flight. (Photo: Jerry McGrath/Cryonic_Photography)

Looking around the cockpit, we can notice a few antennas, which seem to be less than the ones on the F-15C and F-15E. The most noticeable are the three blade radio antennas, one behind the cockpit and the other two below the front fuselage. These antennas seem to be of the same type that was installed on the “legacy Eagles” in the 2000s together with new UHF/VHF radios. Another smaller antenna can be seen below the fuselage, just behind the two radio antennas, similar to the one that was used for the AN/ALR-56C Radar Warning Receiver on the previous versions of the Eagle.

Four white round antennas can be seen on the wingtips and on the vertical tail fins, similar to the ones found on the F-15C and F-15E for the RWR. The F-15EX, however, does not use the ALR-56C RWR. These five antennas may be part of the new AN/ALQ-250 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare and electronic surveillance system, which is fully integrated with radar warning, geo-location and increased chaff and flare capability to detects and defeat surface and airborne threats in signal-dense and highly contested environments, according to BAE Systems.

Chaff and flares capacity has been increased by 50%, with four more dispensers added in the EPAWSS fairings behind the tail fins (two for each fairing), for a total of 12 dispenser housing 360 cartridges. This improvement is important as in modern scenarios chaff and flares are often released preemptively to counter MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System), meaning that now the Eagle will have more countermeasures available for a better protection.

The number of countermeasures could be increased even more if the USAF decides to transfer to the F-15EX also the ALE-58 Back-of-Launcher (BOL) countermeasure dispensers that are currently available for the F-15C and can be attached to the rear of the LAU-128 missile rails. It is not known if the F-15EX will receive also towed decoys among its countermeasures.

EPAWSS, an US-only system that will be retrofitted also to the F-15E, was recently tested during the Large Force Test Event 20.03 at Nellis Air Force Base (Nevada) in November 2020. This type of events has now been redesigned Black Flag and, differently from the more famous Red Flag, is solely focused on test and tactics development in a realistic, massed force, fully integrated, high threat density environment.

Here is a brief description of EPAWSS provided by the USAF:

The EPAWSS is designed to provide indication, type and position of ground-based RF threats as well as bearing of airborne threats with the situational awareness needed to avoid, engage or negate the threat. The EPAWSS defends against RF and IR threat systems detecting or acquiring accurate targeting information prior to threat engagement thus complicating and/or negating an enemy threat targeting solution. The system counters threats through its suite of components with electro optical and RF techniques.
When we wrote about EPAWSS in some previous articles here at The Aviationist, we mentioned that it complements the AN/AAR-57A(V) Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) designed to detect infrared threats. However, that proved to be inaccurate, as BAE Systems’ officials confirmed to us that EPAWSS is not integrated with CMWS. Upon further review of the available info, it seems that the F-15EX may not receive ultraviolet-based Missile Approach Warning Sensors (MAWS) to detect InfraRed-guided missiles, even if the aircraft features the same mounting points used for these sensors on the F-15QA and F-15SA.

BAE officials also released the following statement to us: “EPAWSS can integrate with multiple sensor sources to provide warfighters with enhanced survivability via a fully integrated countermeasure response. EPAWSS was designed with the future battlespace in mind, with an architecture and interfaces that can take advantage of emerging new sensing sources.” Having considered this, we may hypothesize that the mounting points for the MAWS sensors have been installed to allow a future integration of other sensors in the EPAWSS suite.

These sensors, that have never been installed on the F-15C and F-15E, were installed for the first time on the F-15QA and F-15SA that are equipped with both the AN/ALQ-239 Digital Electronics Warfare Systems (DEWS) and CMWS. On these fighters we can find five sensors: two just below the canopy rails on each side, one behind the speed brake and the last two on the two fairings for the EW systems on the tail.

Looking above the fuselage, and precisely over the engine air intakes, we can notice that the bleed air louvres behind the bypass air spill doors have been replaced by four rectangular vents. This redesign seems to be an exclusive of the F-15EX, as the SA and QA variants are still using the old louvres. The exhaust for the air conditioning system behind the cockpit has not been modified.

Moving back towards the tail, two small antennas can be seen marked by red paint. While their exact purpose is unknown, they might be used for telemetry, as they were spotted only on the first F-15SA and the first F-15QA.

On previous variants of the F-15, the tails fins sported two different versions of the small fairings that housed RWR and ECM equipment. Actually, this equipment was housed in the bigger fairing on top of the left fin, while on the right the smaller one was just used to match the weight of the other fin. On the SA, QA and EX variants, the RWR and ECM equipment has been relocated and the two fairings on top of the tail fins are now symmetrical.

Looking at the underside of the F-15EX, we can get a better look at the Conformal Fuel Tanks or FAST packs (Fuel And Sensor Tactical). These 750 gallons (2,839.1 l) tanks, which are rarely seen on the F-15C and always used on the F-15E Strike Eagle, remained unchanged, with their six mounting points for weapons and the to for the sensors like the Sniper ATP. Unlike standard external fuel tanks, the FAST packs can’t be jettisoned inflight, however they do not affect excessively the performance of the F-15, as they allow the same maneuverability without g-load limitations, but only a structural restriction to not exceed Mach 2 (the reported max speed of the F-15 is Mach 2.5).

Continuing to look at the underside, we can notice under the wings the attachment points for the weapon pylons. As you may know already, the new F-15EX will be able to use four underwing pylons instead of the two that we usually see on the F-15C and F-15E. Actually, the two outer pylons are not really new, as the F-15E (and possibly the C too) already had provisions for them, however they were never used for unspecified reasons.
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The F-15EX during landing. From this angle we can get a good look at the engine’s nozzles, the EPAWSS fairings, the new symmetrical fairings on top of the vertical tail fins and the possible telemetry antennas red marked in red. (Photo: Alex Farwell/vikingaeroimages)


With the integration of fly-by-wire on the F-15SA, QA and EX, Boeing said it was now possible to integrate the additional pylons without problems. By using these outer wing hardpoints and possibly new weapon racks, the F-15EX will be able to carry a way higher payload than its predecessor, with up to 22 air-to-air missiles in air-to-air configuration.

Last detail, but not least, the famous “turkey feathers”. The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 and -229 engines used by the Eagle and the Strike Eagle in the USAF are known for having their nozzles exposedand lacking the so-called “turkey feathers” cover plates. These covers were removed in the 1970s to make maintenance easier, reportedly after some were lost in flight due to fatigue or over-stressing and other damaged by the heat. The covers are still used on the older Israeli F-15I and South Korean F-15K and the newer F-15SA, QA and EX.

The F-15EX however will not use the P&W engines, at least for now. The Air Force awarded General Electric a contract for a first lot of engines that includes 19 F110-GE-129A 29400-pound thrust engines, of which 16 will be installed on the aircraft and three will be spares. According to the Air Force Materiel Command, the engine directorate “used a 20 percent factor for spare engines.” Initially the Air Force planned to award sole-source contracts to General Electric for 461 engines that would power the 144 F-15EXs, in an effort to speed up the program.

However, Pratt & Whitney protested and the Air Force responded that will hold an open competition if the company certifies the F100 engine, most probably in the F100-PW-229 29160-pound thrust variant used on late model F-16s and F-15Es, at its own expense on the F-15EX. A new contract solicitation is expected soon, with a pre-solicitation already published for 461 engines to be delivered beginning June 2023. The document mentions that all the design, development, modification, documentation, testing, and airworthiness certification needed to incorporate the engine in the F-15EX must be completed before the beginning of the deliveries.

The first two aircraft, F-15EX-1 and F-15EX-2, are expected to be delivered to Eglin Air Force Base during the second quarter of this year, just in time for the 49th anniversary of the first flight of the first F-15A on July 27, 1972. The new aircraft may look like an Eagle externally, but inside it will a completely different aircraft, compared to its predecessor. At Eglin, the 40th Flight Test Squadron will take possession of EX1 and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron will own EX2, with the goal of completing the combined developmental and operational testing simultaneously and as soon as possible.
 

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Air Force Wants To Give Its F-15s Game-Changing Cognitive Electronic Warfare Capabilities​

Artificial intelligence and machine learning could improve the ability of future electronic warfare suites to respond, in real-time, to new threats.​

BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK MARCH 16, 2021

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The U.S. Air Force is looking to add new "cognitive" capabilities that leverage artificial intelligence, or AI, and machine learning, into electronic warfare systems now in development for various versions of the F-15, a concept known broadly as cognitive electronic warfare. Though the service has not identified any particular electronic warfare suites it is looking to improve in this way, the forthcoming Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System, or EPAWSS, for its existing F-15E Strike Eagles and new F-15EXs would appear to be the most likely candidate. Cognitive electronic warfare, as a general concept, which you can read about more in this past War Zone piece, seeks to automate and otherwise speed up various aspects of electronic warfare, including the rapid development of new countermeasures, possibly in real-time.

The Air Force Life Cycle Manager Center (AFLCMC) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio issued the contracting notice relating to adding cognitive electronic warfare capabilities onto F-15 variants on March 11, 2021. The F-15 Program Office is interested in "cognitive (artificial intelligence/machine learning) EW [electronic warfare] capabilities ... that can be fielded in the next two years and incrementally improved upon and integrated into EW systems currently in development for the F-15," according to that announcement.

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A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle equipped with EPAWSS links up with a KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker during an exercise.

This aligns well with the schedule, as we know it now, for the development and fielding of EPAWSS, which will eventually be standard on Air Force F-15E and F-15EX aircraft. Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) of EPAWSS is set to begin in 2023, which is then expected to lead to a decision about whether or not to begin full-rate production of those electronic warfare suites the following year.

EPAWSS is an all-digital self-protection system intended to replace the existing AN/ALQ-135 Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS) found on the F-15E. While its exact capabilities are highly sensitive, we know that the new suite can detect, categorize, and geolocate various kinds of electromagnetic emissions, including those from hostile radars. It can then prioritize which ones present the biggest threats and then employ its jammers and other countermeasures against them.

"Providing both offensive and defensive electronic warfare options for the pilot and aircraft, EPAWSS offers fully integrated radar warning, geolocation, situational awareness, and self-protection solutions to detect and defeat surface and airborne threats in signal-dense contested and highly contested environments," according to the manufacturer, BAE Systems.


EPAWSS “takes advantages of today’s computing, receiver and transmitter technologies to provide a quicker, smarter response to the threats and better actionable information to the pilot," Ed Sabat, the Project Development Lead and Civilian Director of Operations at the 772nd Test Squadron, said about the system in 2020.

By every indication, EPAWSS already functions in a highly automated manner. This would make it ideally suited to the integration of cognitive electronic warfare capabilities.

"Cognitive electronic support and electronic attack technologies will investigate/resolve challenges of adaptive, agile, ambiguous, and out of library complex emitters that coexist with background (signals that are not the primary signal of interest) signal challenges," the AFLCMC's contracting notice said. "The government is also interested in cognitive technologies which provide rapid EW reprogramming capability or leverage the interplay and accumulation of knowledge for improved system performance."

What this means in layman's terms is that the Air Force wants to use AI and machine learning to enable electronic warfare systems, such EPAWSS, to be better able to perform its core functions even if the exact signals it picks up aren't in its pre-programmed database or are being received in a confusing manner, possibly because they are being sent out in a new or unusual way or are just jumbled together with other more benign electromagnetic emissions. The idea is that advanced algorithms would be able to automatically respond, at least to some degree, to those challenges, working to at least categorize novel signals based on existing data or spot threatening ones in the clutter, all in real-time.

When it comes to aerial electronic warfare packages, the issue as it stands now is that they can only work with the information they have programmed inside them. This inherently presents the risk that they may be less effective when presented with previously unseen threats, such as a new radar, during any particular mission. Even after such a new enemy system is uncovered, intelligence analysts and engineers typically need a not-insignificant amount of time to gather information about it and then update existing countermeasures to be able to respond to it.

Cognitive electronic warfare presents a path to fundamentally change that process. The hope is that this technology will eventually allow for the ability to quickly transform any new information an electronic warfare system scoops up about previously unknown signals into all-new countermeasures or other capabilities. This is the "rapid EW reprogramming capability" that the AFLCMC contracting notice is talking about.

One early version of this capability could involve a suite like EPAWSS identifying novel signal data by itself, doing some initial analysis automatically, and then passing it along via various networks to personnel on the ground. Those individuals could then immediately begin to further analyze the information and, if necessary, start working out possible ways to respond to the new threats.

"In the near term, proven EW platforms within the land, maritime, air, and space domains would host cognitive EW capabilities as part of their detection and identification suite. Onboard these platforms organically collected and off-board feeds would provide spectrum domain awareness and emitter characterization to these platforms hosting cognitive EW toolkits," Air Force Major John Casey wrote in an article discussing future cognitive electronic warfare concepts of operation last year. "Forward and remote operators aided by cognitive EW toolkits would scrutinize the EMS [electromagnetic spectrum] feeds off the sensors to rapidly characterize the spectrum and when necessary, immediately start the development [of] countermeasures."

The absolute "holy grail" of this concept is electronic warfare suites that can do all of this internally by themselves in real-time. With regards to a system on an aircraft, this would mean that in the middle of a sortie, if an all-new electronic threat were to pop-up, the equipment onboard could immediately begin working on reprogramming its jammers to respond in the most effective way possible. With all this in mind, it's very important to point out that the AFLCMC's contracting announcement calls for technology that it could start to field now and then expand the capabilities as time goes on.

With regards to EPAWSS specifically, BAE Systems has already done some amount of work on cognitive electronic warfare capabilities as part of the separate Adaptive Radar Countermeasures (ARC) project, which the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) ran. “In Phase 2, we successfully demonstrated the ability to characterize and adaptively counter advanced threats in a closed-loop test environment," Louis Trebaol, BAE's ARC Program Manager, said in 2016 after the company received a contract to proceed to Phase 3 of that effort. "We will now continue to mature the technology and test it against the most advanced radars in the U.S. inventory in order to successfully transition this important technology to the warfighter.

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A graphic the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency made to go along with its Adaptive Radar Countermeasures (ARC) program.

It is also worth noting that, in addition to the need to develop the kinds of algorithms to enable this kind of capability, this would demand significant processing power to work on any kind of truncated timetable. There is already separate work being done on the development of more compact computers that are still capable of high-volume processing, with a specific eye toward running AI-driven systems. The possibility of using networks to leverage off-board processing capacity for various purposes is something the Air Force, in cooperation with Lockheed Martin, is now exploring now, too.

In addition, there's the definite possibility that the Air Force could look port whatever cognitive electronic warfare capabilities it acquires for use on its F-15s, which will be largely software-defined, into similar systems on other aircraft, so long as they have or can accommodate the necessary hardware. In the same vein, there's the potential for any such development to support work on advanced electronic warfare systems designed for platforms other than aircraft and for roles outside of self-protection.

No matter what, the Air Force has laid out a clear desire to start giving all of its future F-15s these game-changing electronic warfare capabilities in the near-term.

Contact the author: [email protected]
 

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The F-15EX has a new name

By: Valerie Insinna   3 hours ago


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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force’s newest F-15EX variant will be called the Eagle II, the service announced Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, announced the official designation during a rollout and naming ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

In total, the service plans to buy at least 144 F-15EXs to replace the F-15C/D fleet, which has an average age of 37 years and is starting to endure structural strain. The totality of the Air National Guard’s F-15C/D fleet will be replaced by either F-15EXs or F-35As, said Lt. Gen. Mike Loh, Air National Guard director.

The F-15EX includes a series of upgrades when compared to the older F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle models, including the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System electronic warfare system, a digital cockpit, the more advanced ADCP-II mission computer from Honeywell, and fly-by-wire flight controls.

Most important is the aircraft’s open architecture backbone, which will allow the service to quickly update the aircraft and add new capabilities, Richardson said.

Because many of the EX model’s new systems were already in production for F-15 customers like Qatar or Saudi Arabia, the Air Force was able to skip a long development period. Ultimately, the program moved from contract award to the delivery of the first aircraft in about nine months, according to Richardson.

“I would say this day was a long time coming, but it has actually come to fruition very fast from an acquisition perspective,” he said.

The F-15EX made its first flight on Feb. 2 at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri. A month later, on March 10, Boeing delivered the first aircraft to the Air Force, which is currently putting the plane through operational tests at Eglin.

The Air Force placed its first order for the F-15EX in July 2020, awarding a contract for the first lot of eight jets with a value not to exceed about $1.2 billion. All of those aircraft are set to be delivered to Eglin AFB by fiscal 2023.

The second lot of F-15EX planes is on schedule for delivery in fiscal year 2024 to Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon. That base will also serve as the site for F-15EX training. The third lot will deliver to Portland ANGB in Oregon in fiscal year 2025, with the base’s 142nd Wing becoming the first operational unit to fly the aircraft.

The contract has options that would allow the service to buy up to 200 jets, with a total maximum value for the program of $23 billion.
 
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