The U.S. Air Force’s next budget will request funds for eight new F-15 fighter-bombers from Boeing Co., beefing up its inventory with an upgraded version of a plane it last bought in 2001, even as it pursues the more advanced F-35 from rival Lockheed Martin Corp.
The F-15s will be proposed in the fiscal 2020 budget, expected around March 11, as the first of a potential 80-plane purchase over the next five years, said people familiar with the Air Force’s plan.
Even though the request has White House support, it’s likely to raise questions from skeptical lawmakers about why the Air Force, which has spent years saying it needs the “fifth-generation” F-35, now wants more F-15s as well.
Boeing has kept its F-15 production line in St. Louis going with continued sales to allies including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The new F-15X for the U.S. would be a variation on planes sold to Qatar but would be able to carry heavier loads of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons than current F-15s, or the F-35s.
With its internal weapons carriage, the F-35 probably can’t accommodate planned heavier weapons, such as hypersonic missiles that are now under development. On the other hand, the F-15X would lack the technological advances of the F-35, including its stealth profile to evade the most advanced Russian and Chinese air defense systems, as well as its sophisticated sensors and data-sharing capabilities. (end of excerpt)
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