The Air Force is eyeing an F-15 variant nobody wants while still struggling with the F-35

Military Tech

After more than a decade and billions spent developing the consistently troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Air Force is eyeing a new variant of the F-15 — much to lawmakers' dismay.


The Air Force's fiscal year 2020 budget request will likely include an ask for eight of Boeing's new F-15X variant, Bloomberg News reports, the first installment of an 80-plane buy for the next five years.

If fulfilled, the request would mark the first U.S. purchase of the fighter since 2001. And while a price tag was unclear, Bloomberg News previously reported that the Pentagon had considered snagging a dozen F-15X fighters for $1.2 billion.

The planned purchase of the new variant of the 45-year-old fourth-generation fighter comes amid the Air Force's continued pursuit of the more advanced fifth-generation F-35, an airframe that remains plagued by reliability issues, including F-35B service life well below projections and "unacceptable" accuracy issues in the F-35A's weapons systems.

A rendering for the F-15X fighter concept(Boeing via The War Zone)


But this split attention is creating tension between the Air Force and lawmakers in Congress tasked with paying for the aircraft, On Tuesday, A group of Republican senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump warning that an F-15 purchase would siphon resources away from — and, in turn, undermine — the F-35 program at the cost of national security.

"We are extremely concerned that, over the last few years, the DoD has underfunded the F-35 Program and relied on Congress to fund increases in production, sustainment, and modernization," the lawmakers wrote. "In order to meet the overmatch and lethality goals laid out in the National Security Strategy, the DoD needs to make these investments in the F-35 to affordably deliver and operate this fifth-generation fighter fleet. The F-35 is the most affordable, lethal, and survivable air dominance fighter, and now is the time to double down on the program."

"New versions of old F-15s designed in the 1970s-1980s cannot survive against the newest Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter and surface to air missile threats, not to mention rapidly developing future threats," they added. "This action by the DoD would be a direct departure from the vision you have for a strong national defense."

They're not wrong: The Air Force itself previously expressed disinterest in picking up the aging airframe. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson previously stated that the Air Force instead preferred to invest in expanding its fleet of fifth-generation F-35s rather than look backwards at the fourth-generation F-15X

"We are currently 80 percent fourth-gen aircraft and 20 percent fifth-generation aircraft," Wilson told Defense News in a Sept. 5 interview. "In any of the fights that we have been asked to plan for, more fifth gen aircraft make a huge difference, and we think that getting to 50-50 means not buying new fourth-gen aircraft, it means continuing to increase the fifth generation."

Something tells us this likely wasn't the Air Force's idea: In January, Bloomberg Government reported that the initial push for the new aircraft came from senior leaders within the Pentagon like acting-Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan "and not the Air Force, which would be flying the planes."

In short: the Pentagon appears to be twisting the Air Force's arm to funnel attention and resources to an aging fighter it doesn't even want. Cool. Cool cool cool. Cool.

SEE ALSO: The F-15X: The Air Force's Next Super Fighter Or A Huge Waste Of Time?

WATCH NEXT: The F-35 Pulls Off Some Insane Manuevers

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers board an aircraft to begin the first leg of their deployment in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. (Georgia National Guard/Maj. William Carraway)

Editor's Note: This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A new bill would give troops with infertility related to their military service greater access to advanced reproductive treatments, including up to three completed cycles of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and cryopreservation of eggs and sperm for those heading to a combat zone.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks to Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) during a visit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Marines and Sailors with the 11th MEU are conducting routine operations as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

The Marine Corps' top general on the west coast is readying his Marines for the next big war against a near peer competitor, and one of his main concerns is figuring out how to alter the mindset of troops that have been fighting insurgencies since 9/11.

"If anything my problem is getting people out of the mindset of [counterterrorism] and making sure they're thinking about near peer adversaries in their training programs," Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California, told Task & Purpose in an interview on Friday.

Read More Show Less
A Ruger AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, center, the same model, though in gray rather than black, used by the shooter in a Texas church massacre two days earlier, sits on display with other rifles on a wall in a gun shop Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Lynnwood, Wash. (Associated Press/Elaine Thompson)

A new bill introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives would require a significant number of state residents own "at least one" AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with the help of a hefty tax break — except it won't ever get off the ground.

Read More Show Less
The casket carrying the remains of Scott Wirtz, a civilian employee of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency killed along with three members of the U.S. military during a recent attack in Syria, sits in a military vehicle during a dignified transfer ceremony as they are returned to the United States at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S., January 19, 2019. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-backed forces have captured ISIS fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans, U.S. officials say, generating concrete leads for Washington about the deadliest attack to date there against U.S. personnel.

Read More Show Less

Chaos is returning to Stanford.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis is joining Stanford University's Hoover Institution in California as of May 1, a university news release says.

Read More Show Less