The U.S. Air Force rolled out the Boeing [BA] F-15EX–dubbed the “Eagle II””–in a joint service/industry ceremony the morning of Apr. 7 at Eglin AFB, Fla., while Danish officials and Lockheed Martin [LMT] held a simultaneous debut ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas for the induction of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A for the Royal Danish Air Force.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the military deputy for Air Force acquisition, said at the Eglin ceremony that the service worked with Boeing to accelerate delivery of the first two F-15EXs from a standard time of 39 months after contract award to 9 months in keeping with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” strategy.
Richardson said a service life extension of legacy F-15C/Ds, which have an average age of 37 years, is “cost prohibitive.”
“The F-15C and D fleets in their current state place us at great risk with 75 percent of the fleet flying beyond its certified service life and 10 percent grounded due to structural integrity issues,” he said.
The service plans to recapitalize all Air National Guard (ANG) F-15Cs and Ds with the F-35A or the F-15EX, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, the director of the ANG, said at the Eglin ceremony that ANG aircraft fly 93 percent of homeland defense missions. The F-15EX represents a “significant upgrade” over the F-15C in weapons capacity for homeland defense missions and for standoff engagement using “outsize weapons” with near-peer adversaries, Loh said. Such “outsize weapons” could include the Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon on the F-15EX’s center-line weapons station.
The Air Force is to buy 144 F-15EXs, which will feature an Open Mission Systems architecture to permit rapid avionics upgrades.
At the Ft. Worth ceremony, Danish Minister of Defense Trine Bramsen said that the F-35A “will be at the absolute center for the Danish Defense in the coming decades” and will gird the Royal Danish Air Force’s interoperability with NATO allies.
“The F-35 will ensure Denmark’s sovereignty and air dominance, enhance its multidomain and network-based coalition operations, and play a pivotal role in keeping the Arctic a secure and stable region,” said Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Two Danish companies, Terma A/S and Multicut A/S, are building F-35A parts such as pylons, advanced composites, software solutions, radar components and horizontal tail edges.
The Royal Danish Air Force is to field 27 F-35As, the first of which is to be delivered to Luke AFB, Ariz. this month for the training of Danish pilots and maintenance personnel.
In the United States, the objective numbers of F-35A and F-15EX fighters may change after the completion of an Air Force tactical aircraft study by the service and the Pentagon Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (Defense Daily, March 22).
While the U.S. Air Force has fielded some 250 F-35As, at the current buy rate of 60 per year, it would take until 2048 for the service to field its planned number of 1,763.
The Heritage Foundation has proposed increasing the F-35A buy rate to 80, 100 and 120 over the next three years, and a Heritage Foundation internal analysis of Air Force requirements determined a need for a smaller number of the aircraft–1,265, a number it said the Air Force could achieve by 2030, if the service increases the buy rate to 120 per year.