According to data from FlightGlobal’s World Air Forces 2016 report, the U.S. Air Force currently has 416 F-15 fighters (models C through E) in its inventory. More than 180 of these are recent-model F-15Es. But Defense OneOpens a New Window. reports that 235 of the planes are older F-15C and D models.
Now here’s the problem: The basic F-15 design has been flying since the 1970s, and some of these C- and D-variant warbirds are getting a bit long in the beak, and need to be either upgraded or retired. To keep them flying for their full hoped-for life spans (which won’t run out for another 25 years), the Air Force says it must spend at least $12 billion (Defense One estimates the cost at “tens of billions of dollars”) to refurbish the F-15 fleet with upgraded electronics, new wings, bigger fuel tanks, and other structural replacements.
Even these upgrades won’t succeed in transforming a fourth-generation F-15 into a stealthy fifth-generation combat jet, of course. But they’d increase the plane’s range, endurance, lethality — and life span. And over at Boeing, they’re all for the idea. Steve Parker, Boeing’s vice president of F-15 programs, contends that teaming up upgraded F-15s with stealthy fifth-generation F-22 fighters from Lockheed Martin would enable the Air Force to put a lot of metal in the air, and ensure air superiority “into the 2040s.” – READ MORE