F15-EX

Khafee

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The USAF has given the go ahead to a new F15. The most advanced so far. This thread is dedicated to the new multi role bomb truck.



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Khafee

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F-15EX: Careful What You Don't Ask For
April 2019
John A. Tirpak
Editorial Director


In this Boeing concept image, two advanced F-15s show off heavy weapons loads. Illustration: Boeing

While it was an open secret for months that the Air Force’s fiscal year 2020 budget request would include some brand-new F-15s, one of the surprise revelations at AFA’s 2019 Air Warfare Symposium was that those new Eagles weren’t the Air Force’s idea.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, at a Feb. 28 press conference, admitted that while new “F-15EXs” are in the budget—later revealed to be eight airplanes for $1.1 billion, as a down payment on an eventual 144 aircraft—someone else at DOD inserted them in USAF’s budget to help the service address its inadequate fighter force structure.

“Our budget proposal that we initially submitted … did not include additional fourth-generation aircraft,” she acknowledged.

Washington wags initially suggested the F-15 was injected into the Air Force budget by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who had a 30-year career with Boeing, maker of the F-15. Shanahan has recused himself from matters involving Boeing, however, and dismissed the idea that he is shilling for the company as “just noise.” Nevertheless, Boeing has received a disproportionate share of major defense contracts in the last six months, including the T-X trainer, UH-1N helicopter replacement program, and the MQ-25 Navy aerial tanker drone.

At the rollout of the 2020 defense budget request, however, Pentagon Comptroller Elaine A. McCusker revealed that it was former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who ordered the Air Force to buy new Eagles.

Creating a “balance between the fourth and fifth-generation aircraft… [was] a decision that was made by Secretary Mattis before he left,” she said, noting that he had paid a lot of attention to “our cost calculus” in the field of tactical aviation.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee a few days later the “framework” for the decision came from a study of the future needs of the military’s tactical aircraft fleet, which showed the Air Force has a shortage in its number of aircraft and the amount of ordnance those aircraft could carry.

When combined with the fact the F-15C will age out in the 2027-28 time frame, Dunford said “the best solution” was to go with the F-15EX to “backfill” the F-15 fleet.

The EX-variant initially would only be “slightly” cheaper to buy than a new F-35, but it will be more than 50 percent cheaper than the Joint Strike Fighter to operate over its life, Dunford said.

More of the calculus was explained by Maj. Gen. David A. Krumm, USAF’s Director of Strategic Plans and Requirements, who told Air Force Magazine the thinking behind the controversial add of Eagles. Essentially, he said, the National Defense Strategy demands more combat capacity immediately, or as soon as possible. And while buying more F-35s is the Air Force’s preferred solution, the F-15EX move could put more iron on the ramp more quickly; mostly because the transition time for individual units would take months rather than years.
“Cost of ownership,” is the key factor in the F-15EX’s favor, Krumm said.

“There’s 80-90 percent commonality” between the F-15C and the F-15EX, Krumm said, noting that the new aircraft can use all the aerospace ground equipment now used for the C-model of the Eagle.

“That’s all already in the inventory,” he said, but the similarity of aircraft also means “we’re looking at a transition time of months—less than six months”—to transition units now flying the C-model to the EX. “Typically, [with] an Active unit, that [process] takes 18 months; with the Guard, it takes three years.” He went on to say that “If you average that out, Active and Guard, each time we do that we save about two years of readiness,” meaning aircraft available for combat, “And that’s important for us.”

He insisted, though, that USAF is “committed to the F-35, and I think we’ve outlined that in the budget.”

Krumm, in a brief interview following a speech at AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said the F-35 “is a game-changer” and “we won’t take one dime” out of 5th gen capability—nor will the F-15EX “take anything away from NGAD,” or Next-Generation Air Dominance, the future family of systems that will complement and/or replace the F-22 and F-35.

Brand-new F-15EXs will have strong bones and could last a long time—Krumm said 20,000 hours—meaning it could potentially serve well into the 2040s or 50s.

The Air Force has said the F-15 won’t be survivable against modern air defenses after 2028, so is it worth it to the service to spend the money to keep a non-stealthy, 1970s design into the 2040s?

“I think what we know is that we’re going to be fighting with 4th gen [aircraft] in 2028, and in 2035, we’re still going to have those,” he said. “The way to use these things is to collaborate on a network, and it’s going to be, what can those things bring to the fight faster?”
For example, the new Eagle could be a launch platform for “standoff weapons, hypersonics. … They can go a long ways to assist the penetrating forces,” he said.

Air Force leaders have said they are seeking an early, interim hypersonics capability, and having F-15s that are not speed-limited due to their age (as current aircraft are) could be helpful in that pursuit. The F-15 design is technically capable of exceeding Mach 3, and so could accelerate a hypersonic missile close to its Mach 5-plus operating regime. That, in turn, would permit smaller booster rockets for weapons such as the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic concept. The F-35, which was never designed to be USAF’s high-end dogfighter, has a top speed of Mach 1.6, and the first generation of hypersonic missiles is unlikely to fit inside its weapons bay.

“This is all about making the best use of the resources we’ve been given and building the best Air Force that we can,” Krumm said. The F-15EX is “what we came up with. … We will find a way to make this the best we can. We have to, anyway, and this is a capacity we think we need.”

MORE MISSIONS FOR THE T-X, AFTER ALL
Another programmatic bombshell from the Air Warfare Symposium came when Air Combat Command chief Gen. James “Mike’ Holmes said he’s put his staff to work looking at other USAF applications for the recently selected Boeing-Saab T-X advanced trainer, which will replace the T-38.

Throughout the T-X competition, the Air Force denied it was contemplating any other role for the new trainer and that the jet’s potential application to any other missions filled by the T-38—companion trainer, Aggressor, lead-in-fighter, etc.—were excluded. There was no credit given, for example, if a candidate aircraft already had designed-in wing hardpoints or wiring for weapons, as the Lockheed Martin T-50A did.

“We worked hard on making the requirements for the T-X,” Holmes explained in an Orlando press conference. “They were focused on the training mission. … We guarded that requirement because we wanted to hold the cost down and make it affordable, and we wanted to stick with just [those] requirements.”

Now, though, Holmes said, the Air Force can “start talking about maybe some potential other uses for the airframe.” He added “We’re very happy with the solution that we got for the T-X. … We came in with significant savings below what was estimated.”

The change is potentially huge for Boeing-Saab, which have a contract to build some 350 T-X aircraft for the Air Force, and which, according to Wilson, was bid at some $10 billion below USAF estimates. The Air Force has used scores of T-38s in roles other than as an advanced trainer, potentially increasing the USAF T-X buy by a similar magnitude.

Holmes said, “You could imagine a version of the airplane that could be equipped as a light fighter,” a reference to the Light Attack experiment in which the service put commercial turboprops through their paces for use in undefended airspace in notional counterinsurgency or counter-terror missions. Goldfein has since said the experiment has been re-scoped to also look at small jets, helicopters, and remotely piloted aircraft. The Air Force has said it could buy as few as 80 light attack aircraft for Special Operations Command, or as many as 300 or more if the type was included as part of the broader fleet. The service has said it wants to use the plane as a platform on which to “partner” with allied air forces that lack sophisticated fighters like F-35s or F-16s.

AGGRESSORS AND SECOND CHANCES
Holmes also specifically wondered whether the T-X would be useful as an “adversary training aircraft.” Every time a USAF combat jet is spared from having to act as a training enemy, “that’s one more sortie we can use” for combat training.

He also noted that Boeing “has been out to some of the international fairs and talking to our partner nations about what they might offer.”
Using the T-X offers the advantage of economies of scale, since adapting an aircraft already in the inventory in large numbers will make it “cheaper to operate those airplanes and sustain [them] for a long time.” He also said that Boeing’s T-X bid touted their new manufacturing abilities that will make it possible to build the T-X “faster and cheaper,” potentially getting them fielded more rapidly.

Whether any of this comes to pass, Holmes said, “will depend on a lot of things. It’ll depend on where the budget goes over the next few years. It’ll depend on the experiment that we’ll continue to do in the light-attack area,” which he noted is now open to a jet aircraft. The Air Force has maintained throughout its discussions of a new light attack aircraft that such a mission would be additive to the current combat fleet and can’t be considered as a substitute for any of it.

Holmes tempered his comments, though, by noting that the T-X isn’t the only jet that could be considered for light attack.

“An airplane like that, and like the competitors … who competed in the T-X category” would also be candidates, he said. “We don’t have any conclusions,” but any aircraft of a similar size “and cost per flying hour and capability is something that I think we should definitely look at as we go forward with the experiment,” Holmes asserted.

He also cautioned that anything the Air Force cooks up will have to pass muster with the allies originally envisioned as using this approach.
“One of the primary components of anything we’re going to look at … is going to be how our partners feel about it,” said Holmes. But as far as adapting the T-X to other missions, “those are the things that you’d expect us to look at.”

 

Khafee

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This is the F15 Advanced i.e. F15SA & F15QA. The F15EX will be more advanced than this.

 

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f15x-advanced-technologies-01.png

F35 style cockpit
 

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Lockheed F-35 Dinged as Boeing’s F-15X Wins in Air Force’s Plan
By Anthony Capaccio
March 18, 2019,

The U.S. Air Force outlined a five-year plan that showed the extent of the Pentagon’s push to bring back Boeing Co.’s F-15 fighter in an upgraded version, a $7.8 billion investment that would jump from eight of the planes next year to 18 each year through 2024.

While Lockheed Martin Corp.’s newer F-35 would get $37.5 billion over the five years, the more advanced plane would still take a hit. The service now plans to buy 48 F-35s each year from fiscal 2021 through 2023 instead of the 54 previously planned.

A week after President Donald Trump presented his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October, the Air Force spelled out a longer-range five-year plan on Monday that’s sure to set off fierce congressional debate, including over the plan to buy 80 F-15X models and slow the trajectory of the F-35. That debate already has begun.

“As our nation’s only fifth-generation stealth fighter being built today, an investment in additional production and support for the F-35 fighter fleet is critical to ensuring the U.S. maintains air superiority,” five senators said in a letter last month.

The letter to Trump and Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was signed by Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Lisa Murkowski or Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Marco Rubio of Florida. The F-35 is built in Texas, and some will be based in Alaska.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that Pentagon officials decided to buy the F-15X partly because it’s “slightly less expensive for procurement than the F-35, but it’s more than 50 percent cheaper to operate over time and it has twice as many hours in terms of how long it lasts.”

Among other major elements of the Air Force’s five-year plan sent to Congress:
  • Northrop Grumman Corp.’s new B-21 stealth bomber would get $20 billion over the next five years, with funding jumping from $3 billion in 2020 to $5 billion in 2023. Of the $5 billion, $2.3 billion would be for the first year of major procurement.
  • Boeing would get $19 billion through 2024 for purchase of 66 of its KC-46 tankers, fewer than the 75 previously planned through 2023. The new plan calls for 15 in 2021 but 12 each in 2022 and 2023, instead of the 15 previously planned each year.
  • The service plans to spend $12.4 billion through 2024 procuring space systems.
  • Research on the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared early-warning satellite would total $11.4 billion through 2024.
  • Lockheed’s F-22 fighter could see as much as $18 billion in spending for upgrades and support.
  • Air Force spending on setting up and running the new Space Force is budgeted at $363 million through 2024, averaging about $72 million annually.
  • Space investments for fiscal 2020 include $1.67 billion for space launch and ground service agreements pitting Elon Musk’s SpaceX against the United Launch Alliance that’s a joint venture between Lockheed and Boeing; $1.3 billion for Lockheed’s GPS-III satellites and Raytheon Co.’s OCX ground control station program; and $1 billion for satellite communications programs such as the family of “Beyond-Line-of-Sight” terminals.
  • The five-year plan calls for spending as much as $8.7 billion on precision-guided weapons made by Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon. That includes $1.4 billion on the new Small Diameter Bomb-II that can attack both fixed and moving targets in bad weather, $2 billion for the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition and $2.2 billion on the extended-range stealth Jassm missile used last year against Syrian military targets.
(Updates with more proposed projects in final two paragraphs.)

 

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Industrial base considerations played role in F-15X decision
By: Valerie Insinna
March 22

WASHINGTON — When it came time for the U.S. Defense Department to make a decision on which fourth-generation fighter to buy for the Air Force, industrial base considerations — and not acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan — helped tip the scale in favor of Boeing’s F-15X, a senior defense official said Friday.

“There were other things on the table” besides the F-15X, said the official, who disclosed that the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office drove the department’s decision to procure new fourth-gen planes to replace the Air Force’s aging F-15C/Ds.

But when CAPE, the Air Force and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis finally agreed on the broad decision to more fourth-gen fighters, “the conversation then turned to: How are we going to maintain a robust industrial base?” the official said during a briefing with reporters.

“It really then turned into a conversation of, for the future of the Department of Defense, it’s going to be good to have multiple providers in the tactical aircraft portfolio, and that’s what led our way into the F-15X decision.”

This public acknowledgement of the behind-the-scenes discussions that led to the Air Force’s request for eight F-15Xs in its fiscal 2020 budget comes two days after the Defense Department’s inspector general announced it was investigating Shanahan. The IG is looking into allegations that Shanahan showed favoritism toward his former employer, Boeing, where he was employed for 30 years before being named deputy secretary of defense in 2017.

The Bloomberg report that initially broke the news of the F-15X procurement decision cited one unnamed source who stated that Shanahan influenced the process — something Shanahan has repeatedly denied, saying through his spokesman that he had recused himself from all decisions involving Boeing.

However, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s own acknowledgement that the service had not wanted to buy new F-15s continued to raise speculation that Shanahan had played a role.

The defense official speaking to reporters on Friday denied that Shanahan had any knowledge of when Boeing or any of its platforms was being considered during budget deliberations, though Shanahan was aware that discussions were happening broadly about the optimum mix of fifth-generation jets — like the F-35 — and fourth-gen platforms, which can include Boeing’s F-15 as well as Lockheed Martin’s F-16.

“CAPE ran the program budget review” that assessed whether to buy new fourth-gen jets, the official said.

“Working with the standard of conducts office, we put in place a pretty strict regime of keeping anything related to Boeing out of his purview during the program budget review process,” he added. “He was involved in broad capability discussions or broad force shaping discussions, [but] when it came to any specific platform that involved Boeing, those conversations were held strictly away from him.”

So why did CAPE push so strongly for buying additional fourth-generation jets?

The official pointed to two major factors. First was the need for additional capacity.

The average age of the F-15C/D fleet is 35 years, with some aircraft nearing the end of their service lives. FY20 budget documents note “SERIOUS structures risks, wire chafing issues, and obsolete parts” and add that “readiness goals are unachievable due to continuous structural inspections, time-consuming repairs, and on-going modernization efforts.”

CAPE considered accelerating procurement of the F-35, which in FY20 is limited to 48 units. However, its cost analysis — which pegs the cost of each F-15X at about $90 million for the aircraft and spares — found that F-35 operations and maintenance costs outweigh that of fourth-gen planes like the F-15, the official said.

The second argument in favor of buying new fourth-generation planes is that the national defense strategy establishes the need for both stealthy tactical aircraft that can penetrate into a contested zone, as well as planes with large payloads that can launch ordnance from standoff distances, the official said.

Out of the Air Force’s inventory, the F-15 in particular has that as a selling point. Of all the service’s fighters, it can carry the largest payload.

The defense official didn’t go into detail about what alternatives it considered or why it chose the F-15 over the F-16. Instead, he spoke more broadly about the need for industrial diversity in the run-up to the development of a sixth-generation fighter.

“Maintaining a diverse industrial base is in the best interest of the Department of Defense, not just in the [tactical aircraft] portfolio but in basically any other portfolio as well. So the kind of more diversity we can get there, the more competition we have, the better prices we have,” he said.

However, the decision puts pressure on F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin to decrease production and sustainment costs.

Last month at the Air Force Association’s air warfare conference, OJ Sanchez, Lockheed’s vice president for sustainment innovation and operations, said the company was on track for reducing the cost of an F-35A conventional mode to $80 million per jet by 2020, as well as to meet a $25,000-cost per flight hour by 2025.

But Wilson said the company is not making progress quick enough.

“We just don’t think that there has been enough attention on the sustainment costs of the aircraft and driving them down,” she said.

 

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Nothing out the ordinary. The F-15SA has pretty much all of what the EX has except I guess the flat-panel glass cockpit, 2 more A/A missile.
 

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