Why the US Air Force Suddenly Wants to Cancel the Boeing F-15EX Strike Fighter

The US military wants more F-35As and fewer Boeing F-15EX fighters – and lawmakers in Pentagon have ordered a reversal in the purchase of future F-15EX fighter jets.
AF’s first F-15EX arrives at Eglin

The innovative Boeing F-15EX program has been cut from more than 140 to 80 units, which means a significant loss of interest in this aircraft as a critical piece for the USAF.

It was assumed that the F-15EX would replace the aging fleet of F-15 Eagles and complement the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor and F-35 in the Air Force’s combat air fleet.

But, in the end, they will probably opt to manufacture more fifth-generation aircraft and invest in the production and design of sixth-generation aircraft.

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The powerful Boeing F-15EX Eagle II 

Boeing F-15EX arrives at Eglin
F-15EX arrives at Eglin by Samuel King Jr. Public Domain.

The Boeing F-15EX is an American twin-engine, all-weather multirole fighter designed as a replacement for the aging F-15 Eagle.

The F-15EX will provide the Air Force with a more capable and cost-effective platform to meet future threats.

It provides the USAF with a top aircraft that can be easily upgraded with new technology as it becomes available – and they are scheduled to be delivered in 2023.

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The F-15EX is chock full of technological innovations

F-15EX takes flight
F-15EX takes flight by Savanah Bray. Public Domain

The Boeing F-15EX is based on the successful F-15E Strike Eagle platform with significant enhancements to improve its combat capabilities.

It incorporates many of the latest advances in fighter aircraft technology, including new engines, avionics, weapons, and sensors. 

Actually, the Boeing F-15EX features an improved cockpit design that will provide pilots with greater situational awareness and mission flexibility. Also, the aircraft is designed to be highly survivable and able to operate in the most challenging environments.

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But, while it is a significant improvement over the traditional F-15, it is not as advanced as fifth-generation aircraft such as an F-22 or F-35 – and is not sophisticated enough to compete with the sixth-generation aircraft currently in production.

The best fourth-generation fighter is fading away anyway

F-15EX Arrival
F-15EX Arrival by John Raven. Public Domain

Some experts consider the Boeing F-15EX program a wasteful expenditure that does not align with the needs of the 21st century. 

According to some experts, It is an updated version of the F-15 Eagle, a Cold War-era fighter jet, not a stealth aircraft that will add any real improvement to the USAF. 

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In contrast, next-generation fighters like the F-35 Lightning II are designed to evade detection by radar in an era when adversaries are developing sophisticated anti-aircraft defenses. 

The F-35 is also a multi-role aircraft, meaning it can perform various missions, including air-to-air combat and ground attack. In comparison, the F-15EX is primarily designed for air-to-air combat. 

F-35 Demonstration
F-35 Demonstration by Kippun Sumner. Public Domain.

It has advanced sensors and stealth capabilities and can carry a broader range of weapons than most fighters in the US inventory.

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The F-35 may be more expensive than the F-15EX, but it is a better investment for the future of the USAF.

The F-35’s stealth features also make it more survivable in combat; if it is detected, the enemy will have less time to react. 

In addition, the F-35 has more powerful engines and a higher service ceiling than the F-15EX. This gives it an edge in speed and altitude performance, making it better suited for operating in high-threat environments.

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While the Boeing F-15EX is undoubtedly an improvement… it still falls short compared to the F-35

The Boeing F-15EX program seems destined to disappear quickly compared to other USAF programs with unlimited budgets, such as the sixth-generation aircraft.

While the F-15 is a significant upgrade over the F-15, it cannot match the aircraft that will come in the future and will improve its capabilities substantially.


Featured image credit: AF’s first F-15EX arrives at Eglin by Ilka Cole. Public Domain.

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