The US Air Force has completed testing of the F-15EX Eagle II fighter with the EPAWS electronic warfare system. This is a modernized fourth-generation fighter jet, for which the US Air Force has signed a contract for the first time in 16 years. Gazeta.Ru investigated why the US Air Force made such a choice, despite the fact that they had the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II fighters.
The F-15EX Eagle II is a significantly upgraded version of the F-15 fighter. The latest EX version will be delivered to the US Air Force with advanced avionics, including the latest Eagle Passive / Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWS), digital cockpit, ADCP-II (Advanced Display Core Processor) from Honeywell and an advanced fly-by-wire flight control system.
The new computer, according to the developers, is capable of “multiple streams” processing data from various onboard systems of the fighter and displaying information on multifunctional displays.
Among other things, the F-15EX is equipped with a state-of-the-art Raytheon AN / APG-82 active phased array (AFAR) radar. The specialized American weapons portal Defense News notes: “there is reason to believe that this system can be used both as a means of electronic reconnaissance, and as a complex for jamming air-to-air and surface-to-air missile control systems, as well as radar detection stations land, air and sea basing “.
The EPAWS system deserves special attention. “This is a completely improved next-generation electronic warfare system, as well as a means of electronic protection,” Defense News quotes US Air Force Major Kevin Hand, who took part in the tests. “It makes the plane almost invisible,” says Hand.
Among other things, the fighter is capable of carrying hypersonic weapons. “The F-15EX will be capable of carrying up to 22 air-to-air guided missiles or hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet (6.71 m) long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds (3175 kg),” the US Air Force said in a press release.
In the summer of 2020, the US Department of the Air Force signed a preliminary contract with Boeing worth $ 1.2 billion for the production and delivery of the first eight new fighters of the new F-15EX modification of the so-called “launch small series” to the US Air Force. The cost of one F-15EX aircraft and spare parts for it, according to information from open sources, is approximately $ 90 million. Apparently, the rest of the contract is additional contracts for maintenance and armament.
After successful tests, the fighters will begin to be supplied to the troops. Thus, the US Air Force finally returns to the purchase of fourth generation fighters – 16 years after the termination of their supply. The last F-15E fighter was received by the US Air Force in 2001, and the last of the Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters in 2005.
In total, the US Air Force plans to purchase at least 144 copies of the F-15EX. They will replace the F-15C / D fleet, which has an average age of 37.
The argument in favor of buying new fourth-generation aircraft is that the US national defense strategy establishes the need for both stealth tactical aircraft capable of penetrating contested airspaces and heavy payload aircraft capable of launching aircraft weapons from a distance of confrontation….
“It is believed that the F-15EX has this advantage. Of all the US Air Force fighters, it can carry the largest payload. In addition, the F-35 is too capricious, it needs to be constantly repaired, there are flaws that are understandable for new models. The upgraded F-15 looks much more reliable and practical against its background, ”said Christopher O’Kelly, an American aviation expert and research professor at the University of Pittsburgh, in an interview with 19FortyFive.
Major General of the Air Force, retired, former head of the Federal Directorate of Aerospace Search and Rescue under the Ministry of Defense, Vladimir Popov, agrees with this assessment .
“We have Su-30SM, Su-32, Su-33, Su-34 on the assembly line, undergoing modernization. Aircraft of the generation “4+” and “4 ++” are quite comparable in terms of combat potential, in terms of the tasks they can perform, with aircraft of the fifth generation. So, the United States itself admitted that today of all F-35 combat-ready, only 30-35%. The rest are either undergoing modernization or being revised”, – Popov told Gazeta.Ru.