The US Air Force is upgrading its fleet of Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles with the intention of keeping the venerable dual-role strike fighter in service beyond 2035. The service, however, has no idea what might replace those aircraft when the inevitable day comes when the 219 jets currently in the inventory wear out.
"There are no plans to replace the F-15E for the foreseeable future," the USAF said late last year.
Rebecca Grant, a noted airpower analyst and president of IRIS Independent Research in Washington DC, says that a replacement interdictor aircraft has been an unaddressed problem for a long time.
"The F-15E replacement has been a gap in air force strategic planning for a decade," Grant says. "Two decades really."
The problem has always been kicked down the road because compared to other USAF fighter platforms, the F-15E is relatively new, she says. The USAF's Strike Eagles were delivered between 1988 and 2004, Flightglobal's MiliCAS database shows.