Boeing has unveiled an up-gunned version of its supersonic F-15C air superiority jet designed to keep the aging fleet operationally relevant through 2040.
Called 2040C, the upgrade package includes “quad pack” munitions racks designed to double the aircraft’s air-to-air missile payload to 16 and conformal fuel tanks for extended-range flights.
For communications, Boeing is naturally offering “Talon HATE” – the air force’s programme of record for connecting the F-15 with Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor.
In terms of survivability, Boeing’s package includes Raytheon’s APG-63(v)3 active synthetically scanned array (AESA) radar and a long-range infrared search and track (IRST) sensor for “first sight, first shot, first kill” air-to-air combat.
2040C continues delivery of the Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) systems – a programme designed to equip the fourth-generation F-15 with the latest electronic warfare capabilities. A contract announcement for that effort is expected soon.
Boeing vice president of F-15 programs Mike Gibbons says the 2040C concept is an evolution of the Silent Eagle proposed to South Korea, with some low-observable improvements but mostly a focus on the latest air capabilities and lethality.
“F-15s and F-22s in the fight together in the future out there in the 2030s; the assessment and analysis we’ve done points to this as a nice solution set for the air force,” he said at an Air Force Association conference in Washington. “The air force has funded some of these and we’re in discussions about the others, but many are funded programmes of record.”
“Doubling the number of missiles on the jet is not something that’s a current programme of record, but it is something we know is of interest to the air force.”
Gibbons says instead of carrying weapons internally to reduce the Eagle’s radar cross section, the “evolving threat” – Russia and China’s fielding of advanced fighter jets – favours more weapons, according to Boeing.
The Pentagon capped F-22 production at 195, forcing the air force to keep the F-15C in service far longer than planned, and current operating concepts team the two jets for a high-low mix.
Boeing sees a market for more than 200 active-duty and air national guard F-15C upgrades, and the new payloads could be delivered as part of a future service-life-extension programme (SLEP).
Gibbons says some USAF F-15Cs have more than 20,000h of flight time remaining on the airframe, whereas other are in the low teens and would require new wings and vertical tales.
Speaking at a media roundtable 15 September, Air Combat Command commander Gen Hawk Carlisle said the F-15C will require a life-extension programme in the near future and the added capabilities being offered by Boeing will be considered as part of that.
The upgrade would be a “significant bill,” but he says the planning for that needs to start now in the absence of more F-22s. Boeing is also targeting international F-15C operators including Japan, Israel and Saudi Arabia.