Boeing sees strong demand for F-15 Strike Eagle upgrades domestically and among Japan and South Korea, particularly for communications upgrades that would allow the fourth-generation fighter to share and fuse data with the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
As the company prepares for a reduction in fighter work toward the end of the decade, officials think significant modernization programmes could help keep the workforce busy until the USA starts building a follow-on to the F-35.
“I think the F-15 is an air superiority asset that can operate alongside the F-22s and F-35s – given its speed, range and payload,” Boeing’s VP of business development and strategy Christopher Raymond said at a media briefing in Paris June 15. “I think the idea we can get it communicating with F-22s and F-35s in the fight is an important modification that’s gaining traction.”
There are about 415 international F-15s in operation today, and Boeing says Japan in particular is interest in adding capability to its 200 jets along with USAF, which has just under 250 Eagles and 220 Strike Eagles.
The company is also up upbeat about its chances of securing continued F/A-18 Super Hornet production through 2019, with all four US congressional defence committees approving an additional 12 aircraft buys. One outlier, the house appropriations committee, proposed splitting the buy to seven EA-18 Growlers and five Super Hornets, but that could change to all Super Hornets in the final compromise legislation due late this year.
“I think the fact they all marked gives us some confidence there will be another tranche of F/A-18s added to the US Navy,” says Raymond. “We see the potential for an international order too, and that should extend things out through to at least 2019.”
According to Raymond, recent comments by the US chief of naval operations that the navy is “two or three squadrons short” of fighter-attack aircraft due the operational tempo suggest a potential requirement for “at least 24 or 36 airplanes”. The Pentagon is also looking at its EA-18G Growler mix, and whether it should have five or eight aircraft per squadron for electronic attack. “That will dictate whether they need more Growlers or not,” Raymond says.
The company is also anticipating a decision by Denmark this fall on whether to replace its aging F-16s with Super Hornets or the F-35 or Eurofighter Typhoon. The decision is expected shortly after Denmark’s 18 June election. “We put a competitive offer forward,” Raymond says, adding that Boeing has the right industrial presence in the country on the commercial side. Canada, another uncertain partner on the F-35 programme, is also considering the F/A-18 as an alternative.
Source: Flight International