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USAF plans F-15 modernization

Airplane

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bring_it_on said:
Airplane said:
bring_it_on said:
Qatar expects to receive its aircraft by 2022 so if ordered in FY20, the AF could expect to receive the first jets probably in 2023 minus any production break.
I have heard that Boeing has kept the f15 line in a state of readiness to ramp up production almost immediately if the AF ever placed orders. Not true? Or are you speculating about delivery?
My delivery date guess (2023) was strictly based on when Boeing delivers the last order currently on the books (late 2022) and the normal 2 year lead time for long lead items etc. I think early 2023 is a reasonable ballpark estimate. Boeing may well have slack to increase final assembly but they will still need lead time for their suppliers to deliver on new orders so technically they may be able to push things a bit and deliver a year ahead.
I can't find what I read a few years ago. What I found in this:

“I have the only air superiority aircraft in production in the U.S. today—that is undisputable,” Parker said. “I’m running at 1.25 aircraft a month; I have the capacity to increase that. I have plans that would enable me to do that if the customer demand was there.”

Reading other posts... If this is just a small buy of a few dozen, I would agree it's a waste of money and not needed.
 

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Boeing is pointing to its delivery rates. There is still a lead time once an order is placed and before it enters final assembly. Usually it is between 24-36 months so the earliest Boeing could likely deliver something is sometime in FY22 or FY23 assuming they get an order in FY20. I am not even sure that the DOD is going to go through with this plan but if they do I highly doubt it will be just a one off purchase. The FY20 budget will have to shed light on this strategy if it makes the final cut.
 

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TomS said:
It's a SECDEF request, not Air Force, so probably not mission-driven. Defense industrial base is probably the justification. Not for nothing, the incoming SECDEF (formerly deputy) is a former Boeing exec...
Requested changes almost scream air defence/air superiority bird.
In the second area f-15x have important advantages, in the first one it will be outright superior, in every single aspect.
 

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Based on the paltry number of F-15 fighter pilots (as opposed to bomber pilots) interviewed, the only conclusions I'd want to draw are that

1) F-16 pilots want the F-35, and
2) A-10 pilots want actual fighters
 

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But what would say the grunts on the ground?

“When you are in a firefight, the first thing infantry wants to do it get on that radio to adjust fire for mortars and locate targets with close air support with planes or helicopters. You want fires. The F-35 has increased survivability and it will play a decisive role in the support of ground combat,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
https://www.foxnews.com/tech/the-us-army-wants-the-f-35-for-close-air-support
 

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Ainen said:
TomS said:
It's a SECDEF request, not Air Force, so probably not mission-driven. Defense industrial base is probably the justification. Not for nothing, the incoming SECDEF (formerly deputy) is a former Boeing exec...
Requested changes almost scream air defence/air superiority bird.
In the second area f-15x have important advantages, in the first one it will be outright superior, in every single aspect.
Air superiority requires numbers. A few dozen are irrelevant. Maybe if its being bought as a missile truck for the 22s to work in unison... A force multiplier for the 22. But doesn't sound like Boeing is delivering on time to current customers, so how would the usaf ever get a usable quantity before PCA? But I am sure some bright engine engineers could turn the 35 into a missile truck that could still be a LO fighter when needed. Or maybe they will launch hypervelocity missiles from the centerline station. Seems to be the only reason to buy a few dozen new 15s.
 

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TomS said:
Based on the paltry number of F-15 fighter pilots (as opposed to bomber pilots) interviewed, the only conclusions I'd want to draw are that

1) F-16 pilots want the F-35, and
2) A-10 pilots want actual fighters
You might want to take a remedial statistics class.... you misunderstood the chart. The Percent # is the number of pilots of that platform that would prefer the F-35 over other platforms. Of all the pilots, the A-10 pilots prefer the F-35 above all others the most.

btw, It's obvious why more F-16 pilots were in the interview:
1. The F-35 is replacing the F-16
2. There are about the same number of F-16 pilots in USAF service vs all other USAF fighter types combined.
 

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A sample of 2 F-15C pilots in a total of 31 pilots fails the numerical significance criterium that would be raised in a remedial statistics class. The 5 A-10- and 4 F-15E-pilots (aka bomber pilots) <edit> or any of the other pilots, now that I think of it </edit> apparently weren't asked about how they rated the three other-than-F-35-or-their-own aircraft, which makes this a somewhat flawed five-type comparison.
 

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Um, it's right there in the header of the graph

% choosing F-35A over other aircraft
The pilots had the the choice of their old fighter or the F-35A (again, even at Block 2B/3i "pre IOC").

Thirty-one experienced pilots currently flying the F-35A were asked to rate the energy and maneuvering characteristics of their previous fourth-generation fighters in a combat configuration throughout the dogfighting maneuver envelope in a combat configuration[23] after jettisoning their external stores. They were then asked to rate the performance of the F-35A using the same scale, with fuel and internal munition loads associated with a combat loadout[24] under their current G and CLAW restrictions.[25] The F-35A compared well to the four other fighters (F-15C, F-15E, F-16C, and A-10) in most every regime. (For the total results and responses from the pilots of each respective fighter, see Chart 1.)

Each pilot was then asked to select which fighter he would rather fly in combat if he were to face a clone flying the other jet in six different air-to-air situations. (See Chart 2.) If the pilot selected an F-15C in a short-range setup, for example, he felt he could outperform a pilot of equal abilities in the F-35A. Pilots selected the F-35A 100 percent of the time in beyond-visual-range situations and over 80 percent of dogfighting situations where energy and maneuverability are critical to success.

The F-35A was not designed to be an air superiority fighter, but the pilots interviewed conveyed the picture of a jet that will more than hold its own in that environment—even with its current G and maneuver restrictions. In the words of an F-16C Weapons School Graduate and instructor pilot now flying the F-35A, “Even pre-IOC,[26] this jet has exceeded pilot expectations for dissimilar combat. (It is) G-limited now, but even with that, the pedal turns[27] are incredible and deliver a constant 28 degrees/second. When they open up the CLAW, and remove the (7) G-restrictions, this jet will be eye watering.”[28]
Do you really think the numbers would change in 4th gen favor if they opened up the sample size? I guess you have not been reading all of the interviews done over the last few years. Remember that this was a private organization talking to advanced pilots (Test pilots & Instructors) and not just the random pilot that likely will not have the experience to understand the "big picture" or how to best use a particular jet.
 

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Sample size is a rather basic parameter in statistics. You are citing the Heritage piece as proof that F-15-pilots prefer the F-35 to the F-15. I'm telling you the Heritage piece says 6 F-15-pilots prefer the F-35, with 4 of them being pilots of the IDS-E-subtype. It would be interesting to conduct a similar survey with a larger sample size, because that would make the results more likely to be representative of reality. As any statistician knows, even the ones who had to take that remedial class you recommended to TomS.

In the meantime, having a former Boeing executive appointed to the(?) top DoD spot makes me wonder how US cabinet manning is affecting acquisition.
 

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It's not "just" the Heritage piece, that was just the first in depth piece that went over the comparisons. I can think of several F-15 pilot interviews that are pro-F-35 and not a single one that is anti.

Pre IOC F-35A vs F-15E excercise
Multiple LFE domination examples (ie 25:1, 24:0, etc)
Veteran F-15C vs 50% "virgin" F-35A (Block 3i) jets can only win BFM "sometimes" (Kadena)

How much more do you need to see?

Can you show me a single pilot with F-35 experience that wished he had his old jet back?

As far as sample size goes, as of August 2016 (the date on the article from Heritage), the USAF only had about 97 F-35As and the article interviewed 31 of those pilots. I would say that the sample size was quite good.
 

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At the time of the survey, 2 current F-15C pilots preferred the F-35. Class is closed.

I suspect the discussion is not :-\
 

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And how many F-15C pilots had gone on to F-35 training?

Like I said, 31 out of 97 (plus a few that retired) is a significant sample size.

Again, any source of ANY 4th gen pilot that wanted to go back to their 4th gen jet after F-35 training?

Keep in mind that ALL of the pilots interviewed by Heritage were the crème de la crème (Test Pilots and Instructors) and not inexperienced new pilots "in love" with their new jet.
 

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I think they sampled from pilots who had flown both the types as opposed to having flown one and just knowing about the attributes of the other. Given when it was conducted it is probably the case that N for pilots who had flight experience in both the F-15C and F-35A was rather small. So while the effort cannot be used to draw broader conclusions on how an average F-15C pilot in the Active Air Force or Guard would feel after having flown the F-35A it provides the best information that they could have gathered at the time.
 

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I would agree with that.
 

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Airplane said:
Ainen said:
TomS said:
It's a SECDEF request, not Air Force, so probably not mission-driven. Defense industrial base is probably the justification. Not for nothing, the incoming SECDEF (formerly deputy) is a former Boeing exec...
Requested changes almost scream air defence/air superiority bird.
In the second area f-15x have important advantages, in the first one it will be outright superior, in every single aspect.
. Maybe if its being bought as a missile truck for the 22s to work in unison...
22s or PCA wouldn't need a supporting missile truck if it had a gun which could deliver all types of payloads at equal ranges or more (more Survivable standoff) w/ ~1/6th the missile volume/length.

after IADS are defeated by sustained bombardment then hardened shelters can be defeated by sustained bombardment.
 

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The question is not what the pilots prefer … it is what can the Air Force afford. Unless F-35 CPFH comes down to 4th gen levels, the USAF can't afford all the F-35s it wants. Pilot opinions are nice, but not relevant when dollars and numbers are the driving factor. (e.g. think of all the Hurricane pilots who would have loved a Spitfire, but the numbers weren't there)
 

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CPFH is coming down every year and is already about the same as that of an F-15E (ie the F-15X). The F-35's CPFH will get significantly cheaper once all of the Depots come online and early LRIPs are brought to 3F. Nothing will affect the CPFH of an F-15E/X to get it down to where the F-35 is headed.

Per the SAR, the F-35A CPFH will average 14% above that of the F-16C/D.

The Procurement cost of an F-35A is already cheaper than an "F-15X" which makes using Cost/CPFH to excuse the F-15X buy is a non-starter.
 

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https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/12/23/boeing-pentagon-takeover-defense-department-mattis-shanahan/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ebb%20241218&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief
 

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SpudmanWP said:
CPFH is coming down every year and is already about the same as that of an F-15E (ie the F-15X). The F-35's CPFH will get significantly cheaper once all of the Depots come online and early LRIPs are brought to 3F. Nothing will affect the CPFH of an F-15E/X to get it down to where the F-35 is headed.

Per the SAR, the F-35A CPFH will average 14% above that of the F-16C/D.

The Procurement cost of an F-35A is already cheaper than an "F-15X" which makes using Cost/CPFH to excuse the F-15X buy is a non-starter.
Extending the life of the F-15 in the US arsenal could be a strategic move.

US Allies want to fly what the US is flying; it shows solidarity, it's an easy sell to countrymen, and, while a little long in the tooth, the F-15 has a record as a beast. Having an air superiority airframe 'for sale' is necessary. If you don't have something for them to purchase they'll look to others to supply it, perhaps the PRC.

Selling arms to allies is good business on myriad levels; economic growth, employment and systems development are a few that jump to mind. A strong US economy underpins the worlds socioeconomic development over the last 70 years.

The question becomes...

Is an F-15X an air superiority fighter in which US pilots can fight and win between 2025 and 2035.

Is it?
 

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Honestly, this is a pretty weak argument. Which US ally that is a serious prospective client for the F-15E is also considering Chinese aircraft? and which Chinese export product meets or exceeds the performance or matches the same mission requirement? In the export market, the predominant US export products are the F-35A and F-35B. To supplement this industry has had success selling the F-16V (block 70) upgrades to the F-16 installed base and Lockheed has even managed to get a customer or two beyond that. The F-15 Advanced Strike Eagle (SA/QA) has been selling without the USAF having bought any of the advanced strike eagle variants. On top of this there is the Super Hornet and Growler which has been exported to Australia and which is offered for sale. I see no upside to the USAF buying an F-15X just to win over some export orders which in the absence of this move would somehow end up going to Chinese products.
 

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bring_it_on said:
Honestly, this is a pretty weak argument. Which US ally that is a serious prospective client for the F-15E is also considering Chinese aircraft? and which Chinese export product meets or exceeds the performance or matches the same mission requirement? In the export market, the predominant US export products are the F-35A and F-35B. To supplement this industry has had success selling the F-16V (block 70) upgrades to the F-16 installed base and Lockheed has even managed to get a customer or two beyond that. The F-15 Advanced Strike Eagle (SA/QA) has been selling without the USAF having bought any of the advanced strike eagle variants. On top of this there is the Super Hornet and Growler which has been exported to Australia and which is offered for sale. I see no upside to the USAF buying an F-15X just to win over some export orders which in the absence of this move would somehow end up going to Chinese products.
I can hear your 'this will never happen' argument being made several years ago...

"Honestly, this is a pretty weak argument. Which US ally that is a serious prospective client for the F-35 is also considering Russian air defense systems?"

The PRC fling was an afterthought on my part. My point is that selling weapons systems is good business and good politics. And a product is purchased based on its perceived value and a serious part of perceived value for weapons systems is how the US is using it. The F-35A is arguably the best multi-role fighter system in the world.

My real question was whether the F-15X is a lethal air superiority platform for US pilots from 2025-2035 given the airframes available to them during that time period.

Is it?

If it is, then it's just math regarding updates to existing jets vs purchasing new ones. And that math includes the value of a plant and workforce that builds fighters as well as the prospective sale of those fighters to other countries.
 

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NeilChapman said:
I can hear your 'this will never happen' argument being made several years ago...

"Honestly, this is a pretty weak argument. Which US ally that is a serious prospective client for the F-35 is also considering Russian air defense systems?"
This is not a valid comparison. Russia has been an exporter of Air Defense systems for decades and they haven't really competed directly with a US Air Defense system unless there are other considerations (non technical). In the case of Turkey the entire S-400 deal is because of the geopolitical situation not because of what the US has done with its systems.

Could you list Chinese fighter exports over the last 5-10 years? Which cutting edge fighter, comparable to the F-15E has China exported? Are you suggesting that someone will buy a JF-17 instead of the F-15E in case the USAF does not buy the F-15X? Did the USAF buy into an advanced Strike Eagle for Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Qatar to consider it? Nearly all of the F-15E based fighter losses in the export market have been at the hands of the F-35.

The Strike Eagle is an expensive, twin engined heavy fighter and there needs to be a very strong operational or geopolitical argument for a new customer (who hasn't operated the type before) to look into it when there are highly capable light (Gripen-C, and F/A-50) and Medium (F-16, Rafale, Eurofighter, Gripen-E, and Super Hornet) 4+ generation fighters available. Most of the western market is for light or medium sized fighters as these affordable multi-role aircraft is what most of the customers want in case they are not considering the F-35. Others are locked out of a US market and are therefore attracted to Russian fighters like the Su-30 family and the MiG-29 family. Smaller still is the market for customers who are willing to shell out $100 Million per fighter but willingly go to the Chinese to buy their wares. In fact as of now, there is no such customer to be found.

There may be several valid reasons for the USAF to get F-15X, but the argument that the USAF must buy an F-15X to prevent someone else from acquiring a Chinese fighter is beyond absurd imho.

My real question was whether the F-15X is a lethal air superiority platform for US pilots from 2025-2035 given the airframes available to them during that time period.

Is it?
What is the criteria for that arbitrary timeframe? What is the cost of this decision and what am I giving up to acquire them? The answer to your question is not straightforward. I suspect that the main criteria driving the DOD's decision (if these reports are accurate) is an industrial base reason just to keep a supplier still in the 'business' as far as the USAF is concerned. If that is the case, then that can be viewed as a reasonable argument because it gives the ANG a more capable aircraft, ensures better Mission Capability rates into the late 2020's and 2030's while also ensuring two suppliers heading into the NGAD/PCA. But to suggest that somehow this is a play for additional exports in light of a perceived Chinese threat in the export market is not a very convincing argument. There are the F-35, F-16, and the F/A-18E/F all of which are available for in the export market at different price points (from affordable upgrades (F-16V) to top of the line capability (F35)) and there are so many other options from non Chinese suppliers including those with allies.
 

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I have no problem with the US selling whatever it wants to its allies. That does not require us to buy the same platforms in order to do it (ie the F-5).

Don't waste money replacing the C/D/E fleet with X. Use the money to accelerate PCA and replace them with that.
 

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When will PCA fly? Modern combat aircraft take decades from inception to operational status, what should be flown before PCA arrives? If PCA is not replaced by more 'transformational' weaponry that will take even longer to appear? Time will expire on the F-15s, replacements will be needed. Better make realistic plans.
 

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Fly the current F-15s till they fall out of the sky then replace them with F-35s.

When PCA arrives, move the F-35s to normal duties.
 

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Then you will lose capability in the same way the US Navy lost long-range strike aircraft when the A-6 was retired.
 

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bring_it_on said:
In the case of Turkey the entire S-400 deal is because of the geopolitical situation not because of what the US has done with its systems.
Yes. The point is the same. No one saw it coming.

As I said, it was a fling. But the world changes quickly and what was absurd a few years ago is now reality.



bring_it_on said:
There may be several valid reasons for the USAF to get F-15X, but the argument that the USAF must buy an F-15X to prevent someone else from acquiring a Chinese fighter is beyond absurd imho.
No one is suggesting the USAF MUST buy and F-15X. What I said is that one could make an argument for the purchase of new F-15's as a strategic move.

bring_it_on said:
NeilChapman said:
My real question was whether the F-15X is a lethal air superiority platform for US pilots from 2025-2035 given the airframes available to them during that time period.

Is it?
What is the criteria for that arbitrary timeframe? What is the cost of this decision and what am I giving up to acquire them? The answer to your question is not straightforward. I suspect that the main criteria driving the DOD's decision (if these reports are accurate) is an industrial base reason just to keep a supplier still in the 'business' as far as the USAF is concerned. If that is the case, then that can be viewed as a reasonable argument because it gives the ANG a more capable aircraft, ensures better Mission Capability rates into the late 2020's and 2030's while also ensuring two suppliers heading into the NGAD/PCA. But to suggest that somehow this is a play for additional exports in light of a perceived Chinese threat in the export market is not a very convincing argument. There are the F-35, F-16, and the F/A-18E/F all of which are available for in the export market at different price points (from affordable upgrades (F-16V) to top of the line capability (F35)) and there are so many other options from non Chinese suppliers including those with allies.
Is the 15X more lethal than a 15C? Does having it in theater offer clear value over having another F-35? You only have so many pilots.

Sounds like the argument is "sometimes you need to carry more rocks" and "we're getting rocks F-35 can't, or shouldn't carry."
 

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NeilChapman said:
Yes. The point is the same. No one saw it coming.

As I said, it was a fling. But the world changes quickly and what was absurd a few years ago is now reality.
There is simply no basis for any reasonable argument to be made that a nation that buys western fighters and has money to invest into a $100+ Million fighter would voluntarily chose to go and buy the JF-17 or the J-10 for that matter even though the latter has not been exported as of yet. There is no heavy fighter in this class and capability that is exported by China and there is unlikely to be for quite some time.

Look, I am not against the move but am merely trying to understand justifications for the OSD stepping in (if the reports are to be believed) which is not the best way for the services to allocate money since even at times of extra funding the services always have an unfunded priorities wish list and all of those priorities are formulated by following an analytical process as opposed to a top down directive to buy X but not Y. So far Industrial Base health is the most compelling argument that I have heard in favor of this deal when weighing in other modernization priorities and alternatives.
Arjen said:
When will PCA fly? Modern combat aircraft take decades from inception to operational status, what should be flown before PCA arrives? If PCA is not replaced by more 'transformational' weaponry that will take even longer to appear? Time will expire on the F-15s, replacements will be needed. Better make realistic plans.
PCA is a 2030's capability and the USAF is fairly confident in the F-15C's being OK to serve the Guard and the few Active AF squadrons till late 2020s or 2030. The budget for the broader NGAD effort has been considerably increased and is now at something like $10 Billion over the FYDP not counting the propulsion contracts. This is a lot of money and probably the fastest they can go at this stage. I think the idea with the PCA and NGAD efforts of the USAF and USN is to avoid the 15+ year developmental cycles of the F-22/F-35 so those protracted developmental programs are likely not an option. That said, I think a 2032-2035 IOC is probably optimistic even if they move at a very fast speed.

Then there have been proposals to re-wing them to extend their service lives further. In fact, Boeing has even offered to add new wings and other structural changes that if applied will keep them flying till about 2040. I believe the structural upgrade proposals have ranged form a few million per unit for new wings to up to $30 Million for a more deeper structural upgrade that will extend life till 2040 or beyond. I think the latter is a better investment as it buys you a decade+ of operational life for about $2 Million per aircraft/year while still allows you to continue down the radar, and processor modernization path.
 

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IMHO, as long as there is a paucity of truly stealthy adversaries, there will be a place for the F-15 and its ilk, to support the F-22/35 fleet and basically back up the more capable aircraft. In much the same way as the B-52 can be relevant up to a century after it entered service, investment in the F-15 et-al will make sense, as long as it does not detract from more modern acquisitions.
 

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Your argument fails from an economic perspective. The main reason why the B-52 is still used is that it is so cheap to operate.

The F-15E/X is not cheap to buy, operate, or upgrade.

The F-35A is already cheaper to buy and is on parity with the F-15E now for CPFH and will be much cheaper by the time the X rolls off the factory floor.
 

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There appears to be a lot of woolly thinking going on about this potential procurement.

It speaks volumes that the USAF appears not to want it.

Without getting political I would wonder what many "pro" posters reactions would be if this was another administration pushing for this against the USAF's wishes.

The anger & allegations that would inevitably follow?

Hopefully this rather bizarre proposed procurement will not take place.
 

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bring_it_on said:
NeilChapman said:
Yes. The point is the same. No one saw it coming.

As I said, it was a fling. But the world changes quickly and what was absurd a few years ago is now reality.
There is simply no basis for any reasonable argument to be made that a nation that buys western fighters and has money to invest into a $100+ Million fighter would voluntarily chose to go and buy the JF-17 or the J-10 for that matter even though the latter has not been exported as of yet. There is no heavy fighter in this class and capability that is exported by China and there is unlikely to be for quite some time.

Look, I am not against the move but am merely trying to understand justifications for the OSD stepping in (if the reports are to be believed) which is not the best way for the services to allocate money since even at times of extra funding the services always have an unfunded priorities wish list and all of those priorities are formulated by following an analytical process as opposed to a top down directive to buy X but not Y. So far Industrial Base health is the most compelling argument that I have heard in favor of this deal when weighing in other modernization priorities and alternatives.
Arjen said:
When will PCA fly? Modern combat aircraft take decades from inception to operational status, what should be flown before PCA arrives? If PCA is not replaced by more 'transformational' weaponry that will take even longer to appear? Time will expire on the F-15s, replacements will be needed. Better make realistic plans.
PCA is a 2030's capability and the USAF is fairly confident in the F-15C's being OK to serve the Guard and the few Active AF squadrons till late 2020s or 2030. The budget for the broader NGAD effort has been considerably increased and is now at something like $10 Billion over the FYDP not counting the propulsion contracts. This is a lot of money and probably the fastest they can go at this stage. I think the idea with the PCA and NGAD efforts of the USAF and USN is to avoid the 15+ year developmental cycles of the F-22/F-35 so those protracted developmental programs are likely not an option. That said, I think a 2032-2035 IOC is probably optimistic even if they move at a very fast speed.

Then there have been proposals to re-wing them to extend their service lives further. In fact, Boeing has even offered to add new wings and other structural changes that if applied will keep them flying till about 2040. I believe the structural upgrade proposals have ranged form a few million per unit for new wings to up to $30 Million for a more deeper structural upgrade that will extend life till 2040 or beyond. I think the latter is a better investment as it buys you a decade+ of operational life for about $2 Million per aircraft/year while still allows you to continue down the radar, and processor modernization path.
Here are the points I hear you making.

New F-15 costs more than $100,000,000.00

The OSD should not steer priorities when the services have priorities based on analytical processes vs a top down directive.

For you, industrial base health is a compelling argument.

PCA is a 2030's capability.

USAF is confident F-15C is OK till late 2020s or 2030.

NGAD development is probably going as fast as possible with 2032-2035 IOC probably optimistic.

$30 Million upgrade is a good investment per aircraft.

My comments on the basis of your arguments

It's reported F-15X will (likely) be ~$65M and fixed cost. On top of that, the development costs
have been paid for by FMS. That significantly reduces the real cost compared to replacing with
an F-35. (I know that's not your argument but others have made it)

It's incumbent on the SecDef to steer priorities if the calculus for the analysis has changed while
the services are putting together their recommendation.
I know that Mattis was focused on lethality. Let's stipulate that the F-15X as described will be a
fundamentally more lethal platform than the F-15C. Lethality includes availability/sortie rates.
I'd expect the MCR for F-15X to be higher than F-15C
Flying hours for F-15C/D's has dropped by half since the first decade they were out. This is
generally because of O&M budgets having increased with maintenance issues.

The F-35 supply chain is ramping to 17 jets per month at full capacity. Ninety-one were delivered
this year and 130 in 2019. Ramping up production is a major task. I agree that having additional
production capacity is intrinsically good. I don't see F-35 as replacement for F-15C/D. That
was to be PCA.

I'll agree that PCA was likely a 2030's capability. Are you willing to bet capability, capacity and lethality
on that date not changing?

F-15C is a capable system. It's a front line air superiority fighter at Kadena. I'd expect that F-15X will
share and present data to it's pilots more seemlessly than that of its predecessor, hence, providing more
lethality. It sounds like F-15X will be faster (availability of new build over depot waits), cheaper, better
than F-15C. If USAF is confident till late 2020's or 2030 then perhaps you're implying they will either be less
confident or not confident between 2030 and the arrival of the PCA system. If that's the case then I would
agree with that assessment.

$30M upgrade is an option. It entails risk not associated with new aircraft.
1. Is there depot capacity for a major upgrade? Depot time for F-15C/Ds, along with F/A-18's,
had the largest increases in depot-coded hours per flying hour since 2010.
2. How long with this major upgrade take per airframe? What do my pilots, who are the best partly
because they fly more, fly while the jets, that are already flown about 1/2 has much as they were
because of maintenance issues, are in depot getting rebuilt?
Rebuilding an airplane takes longer then building one new because you have to take the old
one apart and inspect everything.
3. Depot programs get modified based on O&M money. That carries budget risk. New jets are purchased
in a particular budget year and delivered when completed. No risk.
Additionally, this is the first year in a decade that the budget was signed on time.
4. New jets get flown more. It's just a fact that they need less maintenance and pilots get more
flying time. F-15's were flown ~300+ hours per year the first decade in use.
5. Regarding "time". Pilots are leaving in "droves" because they're not getting flying time. About 25%
of US "youth" are eligible to join the military today. It cost ~$10Million to prep a lead pilot. So my
pool of potential pilots is limited and it takes a long time and a lot of money to train them. If I
can stem that tide "faster" by buying jets and giving them more flying hours, in a shorter period of
time, it becomes a new entry in the weighted metrics of my decision.

Lastly, I have no proof of this but my gut tells me that PCA has risk of delays that the SecDef didn't feel like
sharing publicly or the timeline was such that the old warhorse wasn't comfortable with it. PCA was to replace F-15C's. That changed the call on what to do with F-15C's. The best way to handle it was to not say anything and mitigate the risk by adding capability as quickly and with as little risk as possible. It turns out that's some quantity of new jets. What that quantity is we'll see as budget time gets closer.

--

There will be some that make this political. I can hear it now... "What if it was the other party making this decision? They would be howling at the moon!" Let me comment prior to your post.

My confidence is in the professionalism of Secretary Mattis, not any particular administration.
 

marauder2048

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Arjen said:
Then you will lose capability in the same way the US Navy lost long-range strike aircraft when the A-6 was retired.
A US exit from the INF Treaty greatly reduces the need for standoff from fast jets.
 

bring_it_on

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Lots to unpack here but the argument seems to have drifted away from you suggesting that the DOD possibly wants to do this to fend off a Chinese competition for exports. That's a good thing because that was quite absurd.

NeilChapman said:
New F-15 costs more than $100,000,000.00

The OSD should not steer priorities when the services have priorities based on analytical processes vs a top down directive.
I never said that. If you read what I wrote again, you would realize that I referred to the $100 Million cost in terms of export i.e. anyone looking to buy the F-15E (SA/X/QA/SG etc etc) is going to be looking at a unit cost well in excess of $100 Million. That is just a fact based on export prices paid by the last 3-4 customers. This was in direct rebuttal to the argument that somehow the Chinese, who so far have exported the JF-17 will sweep in and start competing at the very top end of the 4th and 4.5th generation heavy fighter market when they neither have a comparable product, nor any history of selling in that category.

How much will the DOD pay? It depends upon what they are buying. Can Boeing build and sell an F-15X, a variant that currently does not exist, and an aircraft which is heavier, larger and more capable than the F/A-18E/F for a per unit cost that is comparable if not lower than a Block III Super Hornet? I seriously doubt it. I just do not see how they come at a number that is below $80 Million without resorting to some creative accounting (like selling LRU's and mission systems separate etc. etc.).

NeilChapman said:
For you, industrial base health is a compelling argument.
Yes it is in light of a recent DOD wide look at industrial base health. If the OSD is going to come in and dictate acquisition decisions outside of the service acquisition process then they should intervene in only very specific circumstances - Industrial base health being one legitimate one imho.

NeilChapman said:
It's reported F-15X will (likely) be ~$65M and fixed cost. On top of that, the development costs have been paid for by FMS. That significantly reduces the real cost compared to replacing with an F-35. (I know that's not your argument but others have made it)

Honestly, I don't buy that Boeing can build an F-15X which is essentially a single seat F-15QA with end items currently in development and/or development testing (EPAWSS and ADCP II) at a low enough cost to sell it to the DOD at a fixed cost of $65 Million with a production run of a dozen or so a year when it is selling the block-III Super Hornet for around $83 Million in FY19.

NeilChapman said:
It's incumbent on the SecDef to steer priorities if the calculus for the analysis has changed while the services are putting together their recommendation.
OK, what has changed in terms of priorities and what about all the other things the AF would like to have at a higher priority than an F-15C recap for the ANG? The AF has submitted an unfunded priorities list virtually every year (during BCA) and I doubt that new build F-15's has ever been on that list EVER. So what exactly has changed in the last couple of months, forcing the OSD to intervene? I can only think of one thing and that is the need to invest in the Industrial base following the base review that has recently concluded.

NeilChapman said:
The F-35 supply chain is ramping to 17 jets per month at full capacity. Ninety-one were delivered this year and 130 in 2019. Ramping up production is a major task. I agree that having additional production capacity is intrinsically good. I don't see F-35 as replacement for F-15C/D. That
was to be PCA.
The F-35 production ramp up can handle more F-35As for the USAF. In fact the USAF in its very own SAR has moved 60/year procurement to the right based on other investment priorities and IIRC has totally eliminated 80/year acquisition. A lot of those slots can be purchased if enough money was to be provided. Again, not suggesting that that be done to to replace ANG F-15C's but to speed up the modernization of the active air force and guard units that are destined to transition to the F-35. There is no reason why LM cannot deliver 160-170 aircraft a year starting 2021/22 instead of getting to that number in 2023. See the att. graphic and note peak deliveries with slack both left and right to it. Additionally, production is expected to dip again in the late 2020's/early 2030's giving plenty of room to buy more F-35A Block V's(?) faster in case the PCA effort is facing delays.

I say this to point out that if extra funding is made available the acceptable and best-practice is to go through your unfunded priorities and look to see which deserve additional funds and where you'll get the most impact through infusion of more money. This is usually done at the service acquisition level.

NeilChapman said:
$30M upgrade is an option. It entails risk not associated with new aircraft.
Everything entails risk of one form of the other. There is no risk-free solution here.

NeilChapman said:
Is there depot capacity for a major upgrade?
I believe Boeing's proposal did not involve depot level upgrades but taking those jets to the factory and adding new built components to them.

NeilChapman said:
How long with this major upgrade take per airframe? What do my pilots, who are the best partly
because they fly more, fly while the jets, that are already flown about 1/2 has much as they were
because of maintenance issues, are in depot getting rebuilt?
Those all are things that you have to develop based on a funding profile. You can buy these as fast or as slow as your budget will allow.

marauder2048 said:
Arjen said:
Then you will lose capability in the same way the US Navy lost long-range strike aircraft when the A-6 was retired.
A US exit from the INF Treaty greatly reduces the need for standoff from fast jets.
The cheapest way to buy Stand-Off lethality is for us to take Dr. Mike Griffin up on his word and buy a "few thousand IR Prompt Strike" weapons. :D
 

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bring_it_on

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Another hint form an unnamed "Pentagon official" corroborating the Bloomberg Gov report on the F-15/OSD decision -

The Pentagon official also denied reports that Shanahan exercised his authority as then-deputy defense secretary to order the Air Force to spend $1.2 billion to purchase additional Boeing-made F-15 fighters. The decision, which the department has yet to officially confirm, was questioned by some analysts, who interpreted it as a slight against the F-35.

But the official said it was Mattis who signed off on the decision to purchase more F-15s after the Pentagon’s cost assessment and program evaluation shop presented analysis to the Air Force supporting the move.

“Shanahan was recused,” the official said. “Fourth- or fifth-gen fighter mix was a consideration we looked at in the budget, but that consideration was driven by CAPE.”
https://insidedefense.com/daily-news/pentagon-fires-back-allegations-shanahan-favoring-boeing%C2%A0
 

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Joy, so this is some bean-counter's idea.

This still does not mean that Shanahan did not pressure the bean counters to do it. SOMEONE high up had to get the ball rolling and that clearly did not come from the USAF.
 

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Is there any evidence, anywhere that Shanahan was involved in any step of this process? Has any report to that end surfaced? If this move still exists in the PB20 request then I am sure someone will pop the question to him or other high ranking DOD and service officials during the umpteen hearings on the budget that are going to be lined up over the next few months.
 
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