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F-15QA vs. F-15EX: Which F-15 Is the Better Fighter?

Image: Boeing.

What’s the Better Fighter: F-15QA or the F-15EX? – Qatar just received its own variant of the famed F-15E Strike Eagle called the F-15QA. The new fighter is known as the Ababil, and it has the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) quite excited, and for good reason. The F-15QA has competition when it comes to F-15E variants. The F-15EX is the fastest fighter in the American fleet with a maximum speed of MACH 2.5. The Air Force likes the F-15EX so much that it is buying 144 of them. Qatar has ordered 36 F-15QAs at $6.2 billion and the first three fighters landed at Al-Udeid airbase near Doha on November 16.

What are the difference between the two? Does one F-15 stack up better than the other?

The F-15QA Stacks Up Favorably Compared to the F-15EX

The F-15QA is similar to the F-15 that was sold to Saudi Arabia. QA stands for “Qatar Advanced.” The Ababil has a fly-by-wire flight control system that results in an improved physical feel for the airplane’s flight characteristics and aerodynamic limits. The F-15QA sports an electronically scanned array radar with all-weather situational awareness. This airplane will replace the old QEAF Dassault Mirage 2000 fleet.

The F-15QA can be heavily armed. It can carry AIM-9X Sidewinders and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), and the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles).

F-15QA Has One Problem

The F-15QA, for all its promise, has lived through a recent flight problem.

In May, an F-15QA had a mishap at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois. The airplane has some issues upon landing that forced the crew to eject in an abundance of caution. The pilot and weapon system operators had only minor injuries, but it gave the Qataris pause.

Social media initially claimed it was a “crash,” but the aircraft left the runway under its own power.

The F-15EX Is Loaded Too

Alternatively, the F-15EX has a new cockpit system, better electronic warfare attributes, data fusion capacities, advanced engines, plus the ability to carry almost 30,000 pounds of munitions. The aircraft has an operating ceiling of 70,000 feet and boasts an effective range of more than 1,260 miles.

The F-15EX is also easier to fly and some experts argue costs less to maintain than the F-35 Lightning II. But the F-15EX is expensive per unit cost – ringing in at $90 million apiece.

The Qataris got received a package deal on their F-15QAs. The $6.2 billion includes training. Pilots and weapons system operators go to the United States to learn how to fly the F-15QA. Boeing will create and staff an aircrew and maintenance training center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which will be in place through 2024.

You Can’t Go Wrong With Either Airplane

Both the United States and Qatar should be happy with their F-15 variants. They are fast and well-armed with the latest in sensors and avionics. The F-15EX is expensive for a fourth-generation fighter and the F-15QA has already had a problem when it landed awkwardly in Illinois earlier this year. Nonetheless, both fighters represent some of the best weapons platforms on the planet today and both should serve their air forces well in the future.

1945’s new Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.



  1. Vince

    November 17, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    There are so many arguments that are for and against the F-15EX and who’s to say which side is right and which side is wrong.
    But it has to say something to people that McDonnell Douglas (and now Boeing) must be doing something right. The fact that the EX can operate as a missile truck alongside the F-35, and the F-22 for that matter, has got to put fear in the enemy. Think of the psychological warfare both aircraft can impose on the enemy. Not every battle is going require 5th generation stealth and this is where the EX comes in.
    So my answer is the EX is the better fighter than the QA because from what I’ve read, EX has technology the other Eagles don’t have. Plus the EX has the advantage of working with the F-35 and F-22.

    • Ronald Williams

      May 20, 2022 at 6:27 pm

      Right now the United States has the most and better stealths at least until the 2030s so if war break out the enemy would have to use a hit and run behind anti-aircraft battery. You need a fast jet f-15ex for that warfare plus you need a aircraft that can shoot down satellites f-15ex

  2. Herbert Branch

    June 23, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    As a former technical consultant that worked two contracts at GE Engine Business Group in Cincinnati, OH (5/1978 – 1/81 and 10/85 – 10/87), I want to comment on the engines for the F-15E and F-15EX. I was involved with the Engine program that produced the F-110GE100 (F-16C/D) and later the F-110GE400 (F-14A+/B/D) engines. I would personally like to see a test version of the F-15EX fitted with a pair of F-110GE132 engines: each rated at 32,500# static thrust @ Sea Level (Max a.b.) and 19,000# s.t.s.l. @ 100% Std Mil Pwr (no a.b.).

    Those engines should provide a short take-off run, very high rate of acceleration, rapid climb, higher turn rate; and much faster super-cruise (non-afterburning), possibly up to M 1.15 – M 1.2. The potential long-range sub-sonic cruise for that configuration would be enormous at a power setting of 60% SMP (2 x 11,400#t = 22,800#t.).

    It would indeed be interesting just what the flight test data from such a flight test aircraft would produce. Maybe an F-15EX2 ?? Top speed could easily be M 2.8+ (depending on thermal limits of canopy and windscreen materials and other surface features).

    • Herbert Branch

      June 23, 2022 at 6:29 pm

      This is Herb Branch again. I also meant to say that the $90 million price per unit is cheap these days compared to the unit cost of F-22As and F-35As, which (though both have stealth) are much slower aircraft — due to thermal limits of the stealth-enhancing surface coatings, among other limiting factors. I also understand that the F-15EX has a re-engineered airframe that overcomes some past stress and fatigue limitations that affected older models of the Eagle.

      The ability to rapidly annihilate a great distance, when necessary, with an on-board pilot may be a key factor in taking the battle to the enemy in a manner that is superior to drone warfare (due to greater theater-awareness for enemies “in the zone” of conflict), as well as split-second decision making about whether or not to take a shot that is less potent than another possibility that occurs on the moment.

  3. Lawrence Ritchie

    December 11, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    You are misinformed for the reason the pilots ejected at Mid America.

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