The United States Air Force is set to request funds to purchase new advanced F-15X fighter jets from defense giant Boeing along with Lockheed Martin’s stealth F-35 fighter jets, a similar make-up to what the Israeli Air Force is leaning towards.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the USAF is set to request funds to purchase eight F-15X in the fiscal 2020 budget, the first of a potential 80 jets to be purchased over the next five years to make a total of three squadrons of 24 planes each with eight spares.
The F-15X – which would be a variation of the jets Boeing has sold to Qatar – will come in two versions, a single seat F-15CX and a twin seat F-15EX and be able to carry heavier loads of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles than the current F-15s.
The price of the F-15X, according to Bloomberg, has been offered by Boeing for $80 million per plane while the F-35 is estimated to cost $89m. each with a goal of $80m. per aircraft by 2020.
With a need to keep ahead of increased threats in the Middle East, the Israeli Air Force is set to decide within the coming months to place orders on several new aircraft to upgrade its aging squadrons.
The deal which the IAF and Defense Ministry are now considering is one of the largest defense deals in Israel’s history with Boeing and according to some reports is worth a combined $11 billion and include a fleet of F-15IA (an acronym for Israel Advanced) fighter jets, Chinook transport helicopters along with V-22 tiltrotor aircraft as well as the KC-46 aerial refueling tankers.
Israel’s Air Force has already received 14 F-35I “Adir” stealth fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin and is expected to receive a total of 50 to make two full squadrons by 2024. The IAF is also now considering whether to purchase an additional 25 F-35s to give The Jewish State a total of 75 stealth fighter jets.
While it is considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter jet, the stealth aircraft is limited in the weapons they are able to carry as they have to be stored in internal munition boxes in order to maintain a low radar signature.
And in parallel to the fifth-generation aircrafts, the IAF needs to retain its qualitative military edge and modernize an essential squadron of its fighter fleet. Most of the IAF’s F-15s are over 30 years old with the majority acquired in the second half of the 1970s and while a more advanced squadron of the F-15, the F-15I arrived in Israel in the 1990s.
The F-15IA model that the IAF is leaning towards purchasing is one of the most advanced and cost-effective fighter planes ever to be built, with various upgrades to the earlier models such as more efficient engines and fly-by-wire avionics-which is considered the biggest change to the jet in 20 years.
With the fly-by-wire avionics the jet has a 25% decrease in operating cost per flight hour compared to the F-15I and reduced maintenance costs. With advanced sensors and displays with high reliability, fewer aircraft would be also be required to accomplish most missions.
Boeing has designed its wings to be able to use two additional outboard stations to carry a payload of some 13,380 kilos such as 12 air-to-air as well as 15 air-to-ground or air-to-maritime strike weapons which are able to engage multiple targets simultaneously.
While the F-35I has advantages such as intelligence gathering, the F-15IA’s assets closely match most missions carried out by the IAF such as dealing with enemy missile launch sites or terror targets on its northern or southern borders.
Officials believe that a force mix of F-35I Adirs along with a squadron of F-15IA would allow Israel to carry out a number of complex operations, including any possible confrontation with Iran on its borders.