The U.S. House of Representatives in July voted on the National Defense Authorization Act. As part of the bill, Congress accepted an amendment to add $30.6 million to the funds allocated for the U.S. Air Force to procure the F-15EX. The funding is slated for two Eagle IIs that would be delivered to the 127th Wing based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan.
Rep. John James, whose district hosts the base, proposed the amendment. His motivation was the planned retirement, by the end of the 2020s, of the A-10s currently stationed at the base. James said, “I cannot stand idly by while the A-10s at Selfridge are retired without a replacement fighter mission.”
Introducing the F-15EX Eagle II – A Missile Truck Like No Other
The Eagle II is an upgrade of the F-15C Eagle, one of the most successful fighter aircraft ever produced. Combining the best aspects of air superiority with the payload and range of the F-15E Strike Eagle, the EX is poised to take on the role of deep strike interdiction while stealthy F-22s and F-35s carry out air superiority and suppression of enemy air defense missions.
To equip the Eagle II for this mission, designers outfitted the aircraft with the greatest payload of any strike fighter. The F-15EX can carry up to 12 air-to-air missiles or 30,000 pounds of munitions, compared with the mere 6,000 pounds of internal storage on the F-35.
Furthermore, the aircraft might be fit to carry 22-foot hypersonic missiles that are still in development. It will be the only tactical fighter able to do so.
While the Eagle II does not have stealth capabilities, it is protected by an advanced active electronically scanned array radar as well as the Eagle passive active warning survivability system to identify incoming threats.
In spite of these and other advances, the F-15EX is not expected to be highly survivable by the end of the decade, but it could perform homeland defense roles or air support in uncontested environments.
Eagle IIs to the Air Force
With James’ amendment, Congress has now authorized $350 million for the Air Force to purchase a total of 32 new F-15EXs in 2025. Along with the planned procurement of 48 F-35As, the Air Force would get 80 new planes in that year. The service has said it needs at least 72 new airframes per year to modernize its force and reduce the average age of aircraft in service.
The Eagle II was touted as a cost-effective stopgap for the Air Force after the discontinuation of F-22 production and delays in F-35 deliveries, and with the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter still in the design stages.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
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