The Boeing [BA] F-15EX for the U.S. Air Force is to have a cockpit that is significantly more advanced than that of the F-15C/D and that leverages $5 billion in technology investments by foreign customers of the F-15, including South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Boeing is expecting contracts for the F-15EX in the next month. Congress appropriated $1.1 billion for eight of the aircraft this fiscal year, and the Air Force has requested nearly $1.3 billion for 12 of the planes in fiscal 2021.
While the Air Force last bought an F-15C in 2002, the F-15 production line has been kept hot because of foreign customers. Saudi Arabia, for its part, has invested in a Boeing Digital Flight Control System to improve aircraft handling and allow the plane to carry a wider variety of weapons, while Qatar invested in an Elbit Systems 10 inch by 19 inch glass touchscreen Large Area Display and a digital joint helmet mounted cueing system (DJHMCS) to permit easier target acquisition.
The U.S. Air Force F-15EX is to incorporate such avionics, as well as an advanced electronic warfare system, the BAE Systems‘ Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS), to increase aircraft endurance on station.
Elbit is also providing its displays for the Boeing T-7A Red Hawk trainer for the Air Force and the Block III Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets for the U.S. Navy, and these two display buys are helping drive down F-15EX costs, according to Boeing.
The F-15EX is to feature a Boeing Open Mission Systems (OMS) processor and a digital backbone with high speed fiber running throughout the aircraft, including to all weapons stations, to facilitate rapid technology insertion by the Air Force.
Such technology insertion will likely include a significantly quicker ability to integrate new weapons, including the hypersonic 7,000 pound, 22-foot-long AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) by Lockheed Martin [LMT] on weapon station 5, the center line of the F-15EX.
The Air Force appears to be looking for a spectrum of forces for its Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which service acquisition chief Will Roper may finalize this summer. Such plans are likely to include the Northrop Grumman [NOC] B-21 Raider bomber, the Boeing X-37 space plane, the Lockheed Martin stealth F-22 and F-35 fighters, and long endurance forces, such as the F-15EX.
“The F-15EX’s modern avionics features the state-of-the-art Advanced Cockpit System with an all-glass large area display giving the warfighter significantly enhanced situational awareness, day and night,” Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager, wrote in an email to Defense Daily. “The advanced avionics and cockpit along with the future Open Mission Systems architecture will allow rapid technology upgrades keeping F-15EX on the cutting edge for decades to come.”