NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—Boeing [BA] on Tuesday unveiled upgrades geared at beefing up the F-15C’s range, lethality and survivability—including doubling the number of air-to-air missiles the aircraft can carry.
The new configuration, called F-15 2040C, is meant to keep the supersonic, twin-engine aircraft in the fleet past 2040 by making enhancements that would complement the abilities of the fifth generation F-22, said Mike Gibbons, the company’s vice president of F-15 programs.
“There are clear advantages that the F-22 has that the F-15 doesn’t, and there are advantages that the F-15 has with a carriage of more weapons, more sensors, and being able to have connectivity to platforms and things that the F-22 does not,” he told reporters during a briefing at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference.
The 2040C configuration would increase the weapons payload from eight to 16 air-to-air missiles by installing either a multi-ejection rack or a quad pack on the pylons, allowing them to carry twice the ordinary load. The Air Force and Air National Guard are particularly interested in this capability, Gibbons noted.
The plane would carry any combination of AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) or AIM-9x Sidewinder missiles, he said. “We’re also looking at this to carry the next generation air-to-air missile.”
The configuration features several systems that are already programs of record. Both Raytheon’s [RTN] APG-63(v)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA)radar and the Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare system are planned to be integrated on the F-15 in the early 2020s. The service is also developing a communications upgrade called Talon HATE that would allow the F-15 to interact with the F-22.
Boeing is also offering conformal fuel tanks that would extend the jet’s range and an Infrared Search and Track (IRST) capability.
With current budget constraints, Boeing doesn’t expect the Air Force to be able to fund all the upgrades in a single year, Gibbons said. The company has provided cost estimates to the service, but he declined to disclose those figures.
“This actually is intended to be a very cost effective solution set for maintaining air dominance by taking the jets that we have today,” he said. “They don’t have to create a whole new jet. They don’t have to go lock to the F-22s. These are capabilities and upgrades that are relatively easily done for the F-15, but the U.S. Air Force will make the decisions on the timing for these and how they’ll bundle them together in various budget cycles.”
EPAWSS and AESA radar integration could provide a convenient window to add other 2040C capabilities, most of which are less invasive than the rewiring and structural modifications necessary to add those systems, he added.
Boeing is also studying what hardware repairs might be needed to extend the lives of the F-15 until 2040, he said. The expected service lives of the jets vary from about 20,000 to 12,000 flight hours, which means that not every single jet will need the same upgrades.
“It’s likely that some of that fleet will perform well through the current inspection and repairs,” he said. “Some of them will want some component replacement. Some wings, new vertical tails, things that are typically high fatigue.”
Boeing sees an international market for the 2040C configuration, Gibbons said. Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel own about 300 F-15 air superiority jets, while the Air Force and Air National Guard have a 200-plane fleet.